Taxonomy term


Extinct lunar magnetic field lasted longer than previously thought

Magnetized lunar rocks collected by the Apollo missions indicate the moon had its own magnetic field, generated by motion of liquid metal in its core, until at least 3.2 billion years ago. However, what powered the lunar field and how long it lasted has been unclear. Now, new research reveals that the lunar magnetic field lasted until at least 2.5 billion years ago, and possibly even until 1 billion years ago.

17 Nov 2017

Moon formed from pulverized Earth mantle

Scientists have long thought that the moon was formed when an impactor crashed into Earth, some 100 million years after the planet’s formation. But details of this collision, and how the moon formed in its aftermath, remain puzzling. Now, researchers have found new potassium isotopic evidence that suggests the moon condensed from a superheated cloud of Earth’s mantle material after an extremely violent collision vaporized the impactor and much of the proto-Earth.

23 Jan 2017

Modeling Io’s weird mountains

Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, is home to some of the strangest mountains in our solar system: towering isolated peaks, some more than 8,000 meters tall, that jut from the moon’s surface with little evidence of underlying tectonics. Now, a new model may explain how Io’s odd peaks formed.

30 Aug 2016

Lunar ice reveals moon's poles shifted

In 2009, NASA’s LCROSS mission sent a rocket crashing into a crater near the moon’s south pole, sending debris into space and confirming earlier indications of the presence of water ice on the moon. In a new study, researchers have found that the distribution of ice around the lunar poles doesn’t quite match what scientists initially expected. Instead of ice deposits centered only on the present-day poles — the darkest, coldest spots on the modern moon — ice appears to also be concentrated several degrees away from either pole. And, these off-axis deposits are directly across from one another, or antipodal, on opposite sides of the moon. The reason for this, the study’s authors say, is that the moon, shortly after its formation, shifted off its original rotation axis, causing new ice deposits to form around the new poles while older ice deposits remained at the original poles.

26 Jul 2016

Buried lunar craters filled by lava long ago

Craters dot much of the nearside of the moon. And buried beneath this pockmarked landscape, according to the latest findings from NASA’s two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft, are the remnants of even more craters, many of which were covered long ago by lava.

12 Jul 2016

Lunar atmosphere more active than we thought

LADEE — pronounced “laddie” and short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — was among the shortest-lived of NASA’s successful satellites. Launched on Sept. 7, 2013, it crashed onto the moon’s surface, as intended, on April 17, 2014, after six months orbiting the moon. Data collected by LADEE have already greatly expanded our understanding of the atmosphere of the moon and other bodies in the solar system; the spacecraft also made a number of unexpected discoveries, some of which were presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco last December.

28 Mar 2016

Scarps and craters reveal moon's dynamic side

During their 1972 mission to the moon, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt tried to ascend a steep rise in the lunar rover. The rover could not make it, so the pair drove up the incline in a zigzag pattern. The rise, it was later found, is the lobate scarp of a lunar thrust fault — one of many such features that, thanks to detailed images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), are now known to occur across the moon’s surface. In a new study, researchers suggest these faults were formed by the same gravitational forces that cause the rise and fall of tides on Earth.

19 Feb 2016

Fire-fountain carbon sheds light on lunar origins

The moon was once thought to be virtually devoid of water and other volatile materials — a presumed consequence of extreme heating during its formation. But a recent study of lunar volcanic glasses, from samples brought back by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, is adding to the growing stack of recent evidence suggesting the moon is not the volatile-free place scientists once suspected. The findings bring us one step closer to understanding the moon’s origins.

03 Feb 2016

Enceladus' extremely alkaline underground ocean

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is home to a vast underground ocean that erupts to the surface at the moon’s south pole in a giant plume of gas, ice and dust. Scientists studying observational data of this plume collected by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, have recently learned more about the chemistry of Enceladus’ hidden ocean. 
24 Nov 2015

A pair of moons with underground oceans

Jupiter and Saturn are both gas giants boasting multiple moons. Now, two separate studies have identified another similarity: Each appears to have a moon with hidden underground oceans.
02 Aug 2015