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Two New Lunar Craters Discovered

Two new craters have been spotted on the darkest regions of the Moon! The paper documenting the findings is published in the journal Icarus.

Using data from the LAMP instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a Southwest Research Institute-led team of scientists discovered two geologically young craters -- one (right) 16 million, the other (left) between 75 and 420 million, years old -- in the Moon's darkest regions. One lies within Slater Crater, named for the late Dr. David C. Slater, a former SwRI space scientist who designed and built the LAMP instrument. Credit: Albedo map credit: NASA GSFC/SwRI; Topographic map credit: NASA GSFC/ASU Jmoon

One of the craters is situated in the Slater. Photo credits: Albedo map credit/ NASA GSFC/SwRI; Topographic map credit/ NASA GSFC/ASU Jmoon.

The study was conducted by researchers from Southwest Research Institute.

The two craters are geologically young ones: the first one is about 16 million years old, while the other one’s age is estimated to be between 75 and 420 million years. They were discovered via the SwRI-developed Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). LAMP makes use of light from ultraviolet-bright stars together with the far-ultraviolet Lyman-alpha band skyglow to identify features in the dark. That was how it was able to capture the shaded areas of our satellite. Using both LAM and LRO’s Mini-RF radar data, the researchers have mapped regions near the south pole of the moon where large, deep craters are found.

These craters are otherwise difficult to analyse as they are not illuminated by the sun directly.

Senior author Dr. Kathleen Mandt describes this as an “exciting discovery”. According to her, this will shed light on the collision history of our solar system; these impacts have contributed a great deal to the existence of the various heavenly bodies, and that includes the moon. So, these impact craters are expected to provide more details on the moon itself. Also, according to lead author Dr Thomas Greathouse, planetary geology is important to know to gain a better understanding of the formation of our solar system.

Another important aspect of the study is the relatively young age of the craters: these type of depressions are thought to reflect invaluable data pertaining to the frequency of collisions.

“Discovering these two craters and a new way to detect young craters in the most mysterious regions of the Moon is particularly exciting,” said Mandt. “This method will be useful not only on the Moon, but also on other interesting bodies, including Mercury, the dwarf planet Ceres, and the asteroid Vesta.”

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