Large impacts during the solidification of the Moon's magna would be almost invisible

The marks left by collisions on the Moon’s surface help not only to understand the formation of our natural satellite, but also the Earth’s. However, new research proposes that some of these impacts left almost invisible marks, as they would have crashed into the Moon while it was still cooling in its first thousands of years.

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Around 4 billion years ago, the Moon was a global ocean of magma. The impacts that took place over the next millions of years, as it cooled, may have left marks quite different from those seen today. According to Katarina Miljkovic, the main author of the article and an associate professor at Curtin University, when asteroids or other objects hit the soft lunar surface, they would not have left any revealing marks.

In “a”, the profile of three ancient basins of impact formed when the Moon was partially melted. In “b”, two more recent basins with the surface already solidified (Image: Reproduction/Katarina Milkjovic et al.)

There is still no consensus on the exact time it took the Moon to become completely solid, but it is believed that it was enough for it to be bombed while still in its magma phase. Some studies suggest that the Moon cooled down about 07 millions after its formation, while other studies suggest 500 millions of years, but there are also those indicating that some lunar regions took up 200 millions of years to solidify.

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For researchers, the Moon partially solidified would have a “soft” layer between the crust and the mantle. Upon impact, any trace would be almost completely erased from the surface. For Miljkovic and his team, this information fits the evidence that shows that the lunar surface was much harder hit early in its formation.

Aitken Basin (Image: Reproduction/NASA /GSFC/Arizona State University)

The study shows that ancient basins of impact would be almost unrecognizable on the lunar surface, but finding them is critical to understanding the history of the Moon and Earth — as well as the youth of the Solar System. The analysis also indicates that many basins, including the South Pole-Aitken Basin, formed when the surface was not yet fully solidified.

It is still difficult to estimate the number of these nearly invisible craters. The researchers have a lot to analyze, but they believe the analysis is consistent with recent predictions of fluxes that have a greater impact on the Moon’s youth than just indicated by its current craters. “Translating this discovery will help future researchers to understand the impact that the primitive Earth could have experienced and how it would have affected the evolution of our planet”, emphasizes Miljkovic.

The research was published in full in day 200 of September this year, in the journal Nature.

Source: Universe Today

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