According to a research paper recently published in the journal Icarus, crashing comets may be responsible for the moon’s features. A research team out of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has solved the mystery behind the unusually swirled areas on the moon’s surface. They attribute the moon’s swirls to crashing comet collisions.
Researchers Peter Schultz and Megan Bruck-Syal have tried to estimate the impact of crashing comets on the moon’s soil. Usually specially-designed computer simulation models to analyze the nature of the lunar swirls.
While Schultz, a planetary geoscientist at Brown, has a previously published theory concerning the features of the moon, in his present paper—co-written with Bruck-Syal—they claim the lunar swirls could be due to the impact of crashing comets.
This theory was inspired by NASA’s visits to the Moon during the Apollo program. Schultz states: “We think this makes a pretty strong case that the swirls represent remnants of cometary collisions.”
The investigative duo reported that comets transport their own atmosphere known as a coma. When comets crash into the surface of the moon, they are said to rub against it and in so doing move soil from the surface. This disturbance in the soil could be what creates the bright swirls.
Schultz notes: “You could see that the whole area around the lunar modules was smooth and bright because of the gas from the engines scoured the surface. That was part of what got me started thinking comet impacts could cause the swirls.”
The pair of researchers determined that the comet coma could very well “blow away the smallest of elements” from the moon’s soil. The results of their simulations revealed that when a comet collides with the moon, it melts a portion of the “iron-rich” particles close to the moon’s surface. via