How mysterious patterns on moon's surface originated? Scientists may know answer

An artist's concept of the ARTEMIS spacecraft in orbit around the Moon
An artist's concept of the ARTEMIS spacecraft in orbit around the Moon NASA

While Mars is known as the red giant because of its desert-like surface, Jupiter can be recognized by the layers of several gases like hydrogen and helium. But, how the weird and mysterious patterns on moon's surface have developed?

A group of scientists believe that they may have found the answer of on-going mystery related to the formation of undulating patterns, called lunar swirls. As per their research, these patterns are caused by subterranean lava tubes.

A paper published earlier in the journal Science, stated thatApollo 15 and 16 mission helped scientists to find out thatlpthe sources of magnetism are linked to the swirls on the Moon, which has no global magnetic field.

While at the higher altitudes, the swirls are less noticeable and intricate, compared to the once at the lower altitude and every swirl contains one magnetic field, moon also has magnetic fields that do not have swirls. It was also found that even though swirls are not new, they have the spectral characteristics of new formations, as these are less weathered than the surroundings regolith. However, the magnetic field around the swirls deflect particles, which had blown in from the solar wind and its weathering process is very slow.

Planetary scientist Sonia Tikoo of Rutgers University-New Brunswick said, "the cause of those magnetic fields, and thus of the swirls themselves, had long been a mystery. To solve it, we had to find out what kind of geological feature could produce these magnetic fields - and why their magnetism is so powerful."

The team of researchers created a computer-generated model, through what they discovered that each swirl has to be close to or above a narrow, magnetic object which should not be located far from the lunar surface, while the lava tubes, which are the result of early volcanic activities, has fit in the description perfectly.

As per the scientists this is the formation which had created due to the basalt lava flows that also caused large and dark basalt plains all over the surface of moon almost three to four billion-years-ago.

In addition, scientists also said that this could explain how the underground formation received magnetic properties, because when moon rock is heated to a temperatur around 600 degrees Celsius in an anoxic environment as well as in the presence of a magnetic field, the rock becomes highly magnetised, as the heat causes some minerals to break down while releasing iron.

Such events cannot take place in the blue earth, due to the presence of oxygen and it would not happen in moon at this time, as the natural satellite has lost its magnetic field long ago.

But in a research, published in Science Advances by Tikoo and colleagues in 2017, the lunar magnetic field used to exist up to 2 billion years longer than previously believed.

"No one had thought about this reaction in terms of explaining these unusually strong magnetic features on the Moon. This was the final piece in the puzzle of understanding the magnetism that underlies these lunar swirls," Tikoo added.

Even though the recent study, which was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research has clarified several doubts and answered confusing questions, scientists believe that the best way to learn more about moon and the swirls would be to actually go there and study it directly, which is one of the agendas of next lunar mission.

Related topics : Space