Scientists unravel the mystery of lunar swirls

Scientists unravel the mystery of lunar swirls
Scientists unravel the mystery of lunar swirls

Since they were first sighted in the 17th century, Lunar swirls, those pale spots that contrast with the Moon’s gray, cratered surface, have long puzzled scientists.Despite centuries of observation, its origin has not yet been fully understood.

Now a new study by researchers at Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL) offers a new explanation for this phenomenon. The work was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Lunar Swirls

Unlike the Earth, the Moon does not have a magnetic field global warming that shields it from charged particles from the Sun. This means that when solar wind hits the lunar surface, it triggers chemical reactions that darken rocks over time.

However, Some areas of the Moon appear to be protected by small local magnetic fields.

Each lunar swirl discovered matches one of these local magnetic fields, although not all rocks within them are reflective and not all magnetic fields are reflective. Moon contain eddies.

This discrepancy has led several recent studies to suggest that micrometeorite impacts on the Moon may kick up charged dust particles, creating local magnetic barriers where the solar wind is reflected.

The new research

Nevertheless, Stanford and WUSL researchers question this hypothesisThey argue that another force has ‘magnetized’ the lunar eddies, deflecting the particles from the solar wind.

The planetary scientist Michael Krawczynski of WUSL proposes that forces beneath the lunar crust could also be at play. “Another theory is that you have underground lavas slowly cooling in a magnetic field and creating the magnetic anomaly,” suggests Krawczynski.

Scientists have found radar evidence of what was once molten rock flowing right beneath the surface from the Moon. These underground rivers of cooled magma indicate a period of volcanic activity billions of years ago.

Using a model of the cooling rates of this magma, Krawczynski and his colleagues have examined how a titanium-iron oxide mineral called ilmenite, abundant on the Moon and commonly found in volcanic rocks, might produce a magnetizing effect.

The results

Experiments show that under the right conditions, Slow cooling of ilmenite can stimulate metallic iron grains and iron-nickel alloys within the Moon’s crust and upper mantle to produce a powerful magnetic field.

“If you’re going to create magnetic anomalies by the methods we describe, then the underground magma needs to have high titanium content,” Krawczynski says.

Much of what is known about the Moon’s localized magnetic fields comes from orbiting spacecraft, which can measure the effect using radar. However, to really understand what’s going on, it’s necessary to drill directly into the lunar surface.

For this reason, NASA to send rover to Reiner Gamma Whirlpool in 2025 as part of its Lunar Vertex missionWithin a few years, scientists may have the evidence needed to solve this mystery once and for all.

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