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More Moon and Jupiter

February 3, 2015

The surface of the Moon is an ancient landscape — a realm of volcanic plains and wrinkled mountain ranges that are billions of years old. Yet there’s evidence of younger features among the ancient ones.

These features are seen in pictures snapped by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been studying our satellite world since 2009. Its images reveal features that are as small as a few feet across.

A team of scientists at Arizona State found evidence of about 70 “young” volcanic features in those images. The features are no more than a few hundred yards across, and they look quite different from the plains that surround them. And they’re pockmarked by fewer impact craters, which suggests that they’re fairly young. Researchers say that many of them are no more than a hundred million years old, in fact, and a few are much younger. They could be the aftermath of volcanic eruptions, which poured out fresh lava.

Other researchers found evidence of volcanic eruptions that could be especially young. They’re in a region known as the Cold Sea. They consist of dark, wavy deposits that look like recent flows of molten rock.

These discoveries suggest that the Moon may not be quite dead — and that volcanic activity could still occasionally rock the lunar surface even today.

Look for the full Moon as it arcs high across the sky tonight. The brilliant planet Jupiter is to its left at nightfall, and stays close to the Moon throughout the night.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014

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