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Space and Moon: Asteroid Marks Show Solar System History

Sep 16, 2015 06:07 PM EDT

The moon has an antagonistic relationship with asteroids--and the impacts from that go deep, it seems. That is, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere recently concluded that large asteroids are crashing into the moon and causing broken areas on the crust that extend up to 16 miles below the surface, according to a release. That's quite a shiner.

Not only that, but those bump and bang marks might show a record of asteroid crashes against inner planets billions of years ago, and tell a great deal more about our solar system, the researchers say. Their research was recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Having found this source of information is useful partly because Earth's impact evidence is usually long-gone or eroded by the time we see it. Likewise, looking at computer simulations of lunar impacts would not show us the true complexity of a collision, the researchers noted in the release.

At this point, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) missions has gravity field maps of the moon. This study used the maps to look at the marks below the lunar surface that had been caused by all that banging around.

"[The new study] tells us that the entire subsurface of the moon is fractured and pulverized," said Jason Soderblom, a planetary scientist with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and lead author of study, said in the release.

The researchers are also hoping to use their new maps to learn about asteroid marks going back to a time about 4 billion years ago called the Late Heavy Bombardment. Scientists think that inner planets received a huge number of hits then from asteroids.

"I'm hopeful that we will eventually be able to provide information about the cratering history of the moon throughout its evolution," Soderblom added in the release.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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