Thursday, September 20, 2012

GRAIL twins uncover unexpectedly thin lunar crust

GRAIL gravity measurement schematic
Eugenie Samuel Reich

A sneak peek at the first results from a NASA mission to measure the Moon’s gravitational field hints at a lunar crust that is only half as thick as once thought.

There were a few gasps among scientists in the audience at a 13 September seminar at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as they took in the data revealed by Maria Zuber, principal investigator for NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Zuber, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, showed a crisp, high-resolution gravitational map made with data collected by GRAIL’s twin spacecraft between March and June of this year.

“We are three to four times better in resolution compared to Kaguya and Lunar Prospector,” said Zuber, referring to two previous missions that mapped the Moon's gravitational field. GRAIL’s results have not yet been published or released publicly by NASA, and Zuber was not at liberty to give an interview.

Yet her talk, and the thrilled reactions from those present at the seminar and others interviewed by Nature, suggest that GRAIL is poised to have a profound effect on scientists’ understanding of the origins and early evolution of the Moon when its results are released in the coming weeks.

Read the full article HERE.

Related Posts:

No comments: