Mysterious lunar swirls may be caused by subterranean magma

Lunar swirls are mysterious, light-colored, zigzag features on the Moon’s surface that extend for hundreds of miles.

These intriguing patterns, visible even through a backyard telescope, have defied easy explanation for years. Recent research suggests the swirls may be magnetized by unseen magma beneath the moon’s surface.

New insights into lunar vortices

Modern modeling and spacecraft data indicate that Rocks in lunar swirls Solar vortices are magnetic objects that deflect or redirect solar wind particles that constantly bombard the moon. This diversion darkens nearby rocks due to chemical reactions resulting from the collisions, while the vortices themselves remain light in color.

“Collisions can cause these types of magnetic anomalies,” explains Michael J. Krawczynski, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “But there are some vortices where we can’t be sure how the collision created this shape and size of things.” This observation points to a more complex process behind the vortices’ formation, suggesting that surface collisions alone cannot explain their unique shapes and sizes.

Krawczynski and his team suggest that the underground lava cools slowly in magnetic field This may be the reason behind the magnetic anomalies observed in the vortices. Their experiments, published in the journal Geophysical Research: Planets, focused on the mineral ilmenite, which is abundant on the Moon.

They found that under lunar conditions, Ilmenite The metal particles can interact to form ferromagnetic metal particles, which explains the magnetism of the vortices. “The smaller grains we were working with seemed to create stronger magnetic fields because the smaller grains have a larger surface area-to-volume ratio than the larger grains,” said Yuan Yuan Liang, a co-author of the study. “With more exposed surface area, it is easier for the smaller grains to undergo the reduction reaction.” This finding suggests that the size and distribution of the metal grains play a crucial role in the magnetization process.

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A sample of ilmenite found in Norway. This is the mineral that was tested to simulate subsurface magma on the Moon. Cc By Sa 3.0 Rob Lavinsky, Irocks.com

Implications of Moon Exploration

Determine the origin Moon swirls This is crucial to understanding the processes that shaped the lunar surface and the history of the lunar magnetic field. Future missions, such as NASA’s planned rover mission to the Reiner Gamma vortex in 2025, will help gather more data to confirm these findings. “If you’re going to create magnetic anomalies in the ways we’re showing, the magma underground has to be high in titanium,” Krawczynski said. “We’ve seen hints of this iron-forming reaction in lunar meteorites and in Apollo lunar samples.

But all these samples are superficial. lava flow“Our study shows that underground cooling would greatly enhance these mineral-forming reactions.” This insight 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 emphasizes the need for more direct sampling: “If we could just drill, we could see if this interaction is happening. That would be great, 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 lunar surface, providing a more comprehensive understanding of these mysterious features.

The results from these studies will be useful as: NASA Other space agencies are preparing for upcoming lunar missions, with the aim of revealing the secrets of lunar vortices and their implications for planet Earth. geological history of the moonBy understanding the process of magnetism and the role of magma underground, scientists hope to discover new insights into the Moon’s past and evolution. This research not only sheds light on lunar phenomena, but also enhances our broader understanding of planetary magnetism and geological processes in our solar system.

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