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Moon and Antares

June 2, 2015

The full Moon arcs low across the southern sky tonight. It’s accompanied by bright Antares, the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Antares is to the right of the Moon as night falls.

If you look at the Moon with your eyes alone, you can pick out quite a few features — mostly the dark volcanic plains known as “seas,” plus a few prominent impact craters. Telescopes and spacecraft have revealed thousands more features: craters, canyons, mountains, and others. They’ve even revealed some features that have been buried from view for eons.

Earlier this year, for example, scientists from Purdue reported the discovery of an impact crater that’s 125 miles in diameter. Pending formal approval, they’ve named it for Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator who disappeared while flying around the world in 1937.

The scientists were looking at observations of the Moon’s gravitational field made by a pair of lunar-orbiting spacecraft. The observations revealed a ring-shaped structure buried near the Serenitatis Basin, one of those dark volcanic plains. The basin was formed when a giant space rock punched a hole in the Moon’s crust almost four billion years ago. Debris from the impact covered the nearby crater, hiding it from view — until now.

The discovery shows that there’s still a lot to learn about our satellite world — some of it hidden beneath the debris of the Moon’s violent past.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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