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Our Moon Could Be Conveniently Full of Water

“Hot spots” on this map of the Moon indicate volcanic flows with increased water content, presumably originating from the interior. (Credit: Milliken Lab/Brown University)

It’s been known for a while (especially since the 2009 LCROSS impact experiment) that there is water on the Moon. But so far the largest volume has been found as ice inside the shadowed walls of craters on the Moon’s south pole, likely originating from ancient comet impacts. Now, using data collected by India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar satellite, researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island have identified water inside ancient pyroclastic flows located across the Moon’s surface—water that must have come from inside the Moon itself.

“We observe the water in deposits that are at the surface today, but these deposits are the result of magma that originally comes from deep within the lunar interior,” said Ralph Milliken, a geologist at Brown and lead author of the study. “Therefore, because the products of the magma have water, the deep interior of the Moon must also contain water.”

While the age and origin of this indigenous interior water aren’t yet known, its availability near the surface would be a valuable asset for any future human settlements on the Moon.

Read the rest of this article by Samantha Mathewson on Space.com here: The Moon’s Interior Could Contain Lots of Water, Study Shows

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The Moon’s Dark Seas Are Scars From Ancient Strikes—Even Bigger Than We Thought

Mare Imbrium, one of the large dark basalt "seas" on the Moon's near side. (Photo: J. Major)

Mare Imbrium—the “Sea of Rains”—one of the large dark basalt lava flows on the Moon’s near side. (Photo: J. Major)

When you look up at a full or full-ish Moon you can’t help but notice the large dark spots that mark its Earth-facing side. These form the face of what many call the “Man in the Moon” (or the body of a Moon rabbit, to others) and are individually called mare (“MAR-ay”) which is the Latin word for sea. Early astronomers thought they were bodies of water, but in reality they are solidified dark lava flows from ancient lunar impact events that occurred several billion years ago.

One of the biggest lunar seas, Mare Imbrium (see above), had for a while been thought to have been created by the impact of an asteroid or meteorite somewhere around 50 miles across, based solely on computer models.

Now, research conducted by Brown University professor Dr. Peter Schultz—a specialist in lunar and planetary impacts—indicates that the object that formed Mare Imbrium was likely more massive and of much larger size than once thought…perhaps even as big as 190 miles wide.

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NASA Announces Goals for Next Mars Rover

Structural concept for NASA's 2020 Mars rover... look familiar? (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Structural concept for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover… look familiar? (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — that seems to be the idea behind the designs for NASA’s next Mars mission, which will put yet another rover on the Red Planet in 2020. Drawing on the developments from previous rovers — Spirit, Opportunity, and especially Curiosity — the next robotic explorer will feature a similar construction but with a brand-new suite of science instruments dedicated to hunting for evidence of past biology within Mars’ rocks… and potentially even select some of those samples to be returned back to Earth.

“It’s a whole planet up there with a complicated history… that history is a story that’s stored in the rocks and our job is to figure out that story, and what that story of that planet tells us about this planet.”

– Jim Bell, Science Definition Team Member, ASU

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A Historic Observatory’s Connection to the Space Station

Ladd Observatory in Providence, RI, seen today and after its opening in 1891 (Brown University)

Ladd Observatory in Providence, RI, seen today and after its opening in 1891 (Brown University)

It’s a wonderful thing for children to look up to their fathers, but some kids have to look a little further than others — especially when dad is in command of the International Space Station!

Around 6 p.m. EST on February 14, the ISS passed over southern New England, and for a few brief moments the Station was directly above Rhode Island, at 37 miles wide the smallest state in the US. 240 miles up and heading northeast at 17,500 mph, the ISS quickly passed out of sight for anyone watching from the ground, but it was enough time for Heidi and Anthony Ford to get a view of the place where their father Kevin Ford has been living and working since the end of October… and thanks to Brown University’s historic Ladd Observatory and astronomer Robert Horton they got to see the Station up close while talking to their dad on the phone.

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