Mysterious lunar rotations potentially caused by underground magma

Lunar rings are mysterious, brightly colored features on the moon’s surface that stretch for hundreds of miles.

These intriguing patterns, visible even with a backyard telescope, have defied easy explanation for years. Recent research suggests that the eddies may be magnetized by invisible magmas beneath the lunar surface.

New insights into lunar rotations

Recent modeling and spacecraft data bear this out rocks in lunar orbits become magnetized, which deflects or redirects the solar wind particles that constantly bombard the moon. This redirection causes neighboring rocks to darken due to chemical reactions from the collisions, while the vortices themselves remain light-colored.

Michael J. Krawczynski, an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Louis, explains, “Impacts can cause these types of magnetic anomalies. But there are some rotations where we’re just not sure how an impact can create that shape and that size of things.” This observation points to a more complex process behind the formation of eddies, suggesting that surface influences alone cannot account for their unique shapes and sizes.

This is an image of Reiner Gamma's lunar orbit on the Moon, provided by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Credits Nasa Lro Wac Science Team

Krawczynski and his team propose that underground lavas cool slowly in a magnetic field may be responsible for the magnetic anomalies observed in the spins. Their experiments, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, focused on the mineral ilmenite, which is abundant on the Moon.

They found that under lunar conditions, ilmenite can react to form magnetizable iron metal particles, potentially explaining the magnetization of vortices. Yuanyuan Liang, a co-author of the study, noted, “The smaller grains we were working with seemed to create stronger magnetic fields because the surface-to-volume ratio is greater for smaller grains compared to larger grains. larger. With more exposed surface area, it is easier for smaller grains to undergo the reduction reaction. This finding suggests that the size and distribution of mineral grains play a critical role in the magnetization process.

A sample of Ilmenite found in Norway.  This is the mineral tested to simulate underground magma on the moon.  Cc By Sa 3.0 Rob Lavinsky,

Implications for lunar exploration

Determining the origin of lunar rotations it is essential to understanding the processes that have shaped the lunar surface and the history of the moon’s magnetic field. Future missions, such as NASA’s planned rover mission to the Reiner Gamma orbit in 2025, will help collect more data to confirm these findings. “If you’re going to make magnetic anomalies with the methods we describe, then the underground magma has to have high titanium,” Krawczynski said. “We have seen signs of this reaction that creates iron metal in lunar meteorites and in lunar samples from Apollo.

But all these samples are superficial lava flows, and our study shows that subsurface cooling should significantly enhance these metal-forming reactions.” This discovery could reshape our understanding of lunar geology and the role of magnetic fields in shaping planetary surfaces.

This research will help interpret data from future lunar missions, especially those that explore magnetic anomalies. For now, Krawczynski stresses the need for more direct sampling: “If we could detect, we could see if this reaction was happening. It would be nice, but it’s not possible yet. Right now, we’re stuck with the surface.” As technology advances, future missions may eventually provide the ability to drill beneath the moon’s surface, providing a more complete understanding of these enigmatic features.

Findings from these studies will be instrumental as NASA and other space agencies prepare for future lunar missions aimed at unraveling the mysteries of lunar rotations and their implications for geological history of the moon. By understanding the process of magnetization and the role of subsurface magma, scientists hope to unlock new insights into the Moon’s past and its evolution. This research not only sheds light on lunar phenomena, but also improves our broader understanding of planetary magnetism and geological processes in our solar system.

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