New gravity map reveals a battered moon

Embedded video from
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

Twin NASA probes orbiting the moon have generated the highest resolution gravity field map of any celestial body.

The new map -- created by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission -- of which Mines Professor Jeff Andrews-Hanna is a guest scientist -- is allowing scientists to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. Data from the two washing machine-sized spacecraft also will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

The gravity field map reveals an abundance of features never before seen in detail, such as tectonic structures, volcanic landforms, basin rings, crater central peaks, and numerous simple, bowl-shaped craters. Data also show the moon's gravity field is unlike that of any terrestrial planet in our solar system.

These are the first scientific results from the prime phase of the mission, and they are published in three papers in the journal Science.

The news announced Dec. 5 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union was immediately picked up by numerous news media:

Time

The Guardian

MSNBC

Science

BBC

For more information about the GRAIL mission and its findings, click here.