One of the most interesting mysteries about the moon is regarding how did the Orientale Basin, bull’s-eye crater was formed. Scientists think that they have finally solved the mystery behind the moon crater rings that surround the 580-mile wide basin.
Researchers have detailed the process that went into unraveling the mystery behind the moon crater rings in two articles published in journal Science. According to those papers, scientists used data available from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft to examine the structures below the moon’s Orientale Basin.
Brandon Johnson, the lead author of one of the articles and the co-author of the second one, has stated that huge impacts similar to the ones that have led to the formation of this fascinating moon crater, were very important agents of change on the crusts of planets in the beginning of the solar system.
Using the GRAIL system, the scientists managed to obtain a lot of data which helped understand how basins on our planet formed. Researchers can then use this knowledge to explain the formation of other big basins on various planets or moons.
As mysterious as the crater rings on our moon seem to be, they are not the only ones in our solar system. However, they all have something in common as they date back from the first 500 million years of the history of the solar system when heavy bombardments of asteroids were a common occurrence.
Similar crater rings are very likely to have formed on Earth but they have since disappeared because of geological processes such as erosion and plate tectonics. However, the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere with or water that can erode the rings nor can its surface move to destroy them. As such, they have remained mostly intact from the moment they were formed.
The researchers determined that the Orientale basin with its moon crater rings was formed by a 40-mile wide object traveling at speeds of around nine miles per second. The impact created a transient crater that moves huge amounts of material outward which formed cliffs. These were preserved over time as the two external rings we see today. The initial transient crater collapsed over time to form the inner ring. The process lasted only a few minutes because of the energy of the impact.
Image credit: Ernest Wright, NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio