A Protoplanet-sized Asteroid Formed Moon’s Imbrium Basin

Posted: Jul 21 2016, 8:48am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

A Protoplanet-sized Asteroid Formed Moon’s Imbrium Basin
A laboratory collision on a mock-up Moon using the Ames Vertical Gun Range. Schultz Lab/Brown University

Astronomers have surmised regarding the Imbrium Sculpture on the lunar surface. Some say it may have been caused by an impact with a space object.

An asteroid probably hit the moon’s surface and caused the Imbrium Sculpture. In fact, it could have been a proto-planetary object. This object hit the moon about 3.8 billion years ago.

It was more than 150 miles in diameter. That is about the length of the state of New Jersey. Its impact with the moon caused the Imbrium Basin to be formed.

This Imbrium Basin has been said to be one of the eyes of the mythical Man on the Moon that is an all-time favorite of folklore. Now astronomers are speculating that the object that struck the moon with force was very large indeed.

In fact, it was a proto-planet. The resulting geological formation on the moon has become quite famous. The erstwhile estimates were reached using computer models.

Grooves and gashes associated with the Imbrium Basin on the Moon have long been puzzling. New research shows how some of these features were formed and uses them to estimate the size of the Imbrium impactor. The study suggests it was big enough to be considered a protoplanet. NASA/Northeast Planetary Data Center/Brown University

However, the novel findings point towards similar impacts on the surfaces of other planets such as Mars and Mercury. When viewed from earth, the Imbrium Basin is a blackened spot located in the northwest quadrant of the moon. It is actually about 750 miles across. It has several notches and scars in it. These are larger than the average marks on the moon.

They are termed the Imbrium Sculpture and they radiate out from the center of the impact crater. They are like the sun’s rays coming out from the edges.

However, they are concentrated on the southeast side of the basin. The impact thus occurred at an oblique angle. There is also another series of scars that have a radically different alignment. This second set of notches were quite an enigma. It remained a riddle as to where they originated from.

Images from laboratory impacts capture the crumbling impactor in flight following a high-speed impact into a cylinder using the Ames Vertical Gun Range. Schultz Lab/Brown University

Via many experiments, the size and velocity of the impactor were gauged. After several tries, the results were conclusive. They pointed towards the harsh impact of the proto-planet with the moon in the distant past.

The grooves made by the impact aren’t radial in the patterns they make on the lunar surface. It is from the first moment of impact that everything else ensued. The Imbrium Basin is thus a relic from the effect of a long lost giant object that once hit the moon with full force.

This research got published in the journal Nature.

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