A group of scientists say that the mysterious formations on the Moon’s surface which resemble disorganized craters were created by a series of impacts with comets over the course of more than 100 million years.
Researchers used 3-D models and computer graphics to simulate comet collision into lunar soil. The models suggested that many of the features found in the swirls could have been caused by comet interaction.
“We think this makes a pretty strong case that the swirls represent remnants of cometary collisions,”
concluded Peter Schultz, lead author of the study and researcher at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Lunar swirls had been stirring a lot f controversy in the scientific community over the course many years. The majority are located on the dark side of the
Moon, but the notorious Reiner Gamma swirl can be easily detected on the visible side of the celestial body in its southwestern part.
Four decades ago, scientists believed that the swirls were the result of anomalies in the Moon’s magnetic field. They issued two theories on how those formations might have emerged.
The first theory asserted that magnetic-charged rocks that were trapped under the lunar surface since ancient times protected it from weathering by solar winds.
Those winds were believed to darken the lunar soil because of the electromagnetically charged particles they were carrying. But the spots where swirls formed remained brighter due to the magnetic shield emitted by the rocks, scientists believed.
According to the second theory, magnetic fields carried around charged particles from the moon’s surface into twisting shapes. So, both theories held the Moon’s magnetic field accountable for lunar swirls’ formation. The theories seemed accurate since lunar magnetic field was far stronger millions of years ago.
Nevertheless, Prof. Schultz has another theory. He thinks that most likely comets are responsible for lunar swirl formation.
He explained that the tiny objects have a gaseous atmosphere which may scour away the soil on the impact zone after a collision onto the lunar surface. So, lunar swirls are only remains of the comet scouring, Prof. Schultz explained.
But the idea is not new. The professor had published a paper on the hypothesis in the journal Nature in the 1980s. Yet, today’s technology allowed him and his team to test the theory.
Computer models clearly showed that comets’ gaseous atmosphere called coma and their frozen core indeed could have formed the swirls. Scientists explained that the swirls’ sinuous look created by eddies and vortices was the result of a series of collisions with gaseous bodies such as colliding comets.
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