October 23, 2021

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Moon mantle mystery may shed light on habitable planet evolution

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Thorium detected across the moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin reveals how mantle material was violently ejected during the impact that formed the basin. In this map of the moon’s south pole, the abundance of thorium is represented by a color scale, with high-thorium areas shown in red, trending to purple and grey for lower abundances (Image credit: NASA/LRO/Lunar Prospector/D. Moriarty)

The moon’s complex geologic history could act as a pointer to understand other rocky worlds in the universe, including those that are potentially habitable, according to a new pair of research papers.

The NASA-backed studies are based upon data from the agency’s long-running Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) — which has spent the past dozen years mapping the moon in high resolution — along with old data from the retired NASA Lunar Prospector and Indian Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft missions. 

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