The moon is suffering from a case of irregularity. It’s not something that Ex Lax or Senocot can take care of, though. The moon’s gravity is irregular, not its bowel movements.
Astronomers have known about the moon’s case of irregularity in regards to its gravity for a while, but they have only recently discovered the cause of its irregular gravity.
They did it through using the data of NASA’s Grail spacecrafts.
The word “grail” is an acronym. The letters stand for the Grail Recovery and Interior Laboratory. Grail was a science mission formed by NASA to study the moon’s gravitational field.
What the scientific mission did was send two spacecrafts that worked together to measure the varying distance between each other. The resultant measurements were then gathered and used to map the gravitational field of the moon.
In December of 2012, the two spacecrafts ended their mission by crashing into the moon. They did this so that astronomers could collect data about “mascons.”
The word mascons is just a shorter term to use for mass concentrations. These mascons are sitting on the surface of the moon, and their combined weight is so dense that they are what is responsible for the varying or irregular gravity of the moon. They are the culprits behind the moon’s case of irregularity.
The two Grail spacecrafts captured the data about the moon’s variations in its gravitational field. NASA astronomers then interpreted the data as measurements.
The astronomers at NASA were already aware of mascons since the Apollo mission but they hadn’t figured out the cause of how mascons play a major role in the irregularity of the moon.
On last May 30, a published study in the journal Science explained the cause of the irregular gravity of the moon.
According to Jay Melosh, who was the lead author of the study and is a geophysicist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., he and his team showed the exact location of the mascons. They then used computer technology to create a model of it.
The astronomers learned that the mascons are located in two huge craters of the moon that may have been formed when asteroids hit it billions of years ago. The first crater is on the lunar nearside, which is the side of the moon facing the Earth. The other one is on the far side, or the dark side of the moon.
According to the researchers, the asteroids that hit the moon were the cause were the cause of the irregular gravitational field. The more craters that formed in the moon over the billions of years of its existence, the more mascons were deposited, which resulted in even further gravitational variations.
The Grail team is still working on developing new models for the presentation of this discovery.
Perhaps they could name whatever model they eventually settle on a name like one of episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and call it: “The Asteroid Mascon Formulation” or “The Irregular Lunar Modification.”
Written by: Douglas Cobb