Rivers of rock

Jun 25, 2012 By Jason Major
Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Moon may not have ever had liquid water on its surface — despite the use of the term mare, Latin for “sea” and moniker for the large regions of darker material visible from Earth — but liquid did indeed flow on the Moon in ages past… liquid rock, briefly set loose by the impacts that formed its ubiquitous craters.

When large meteorites impacted the , crust at the site would melt and get flung outwards, flowing downhill as rivers of rock and creating streams and pools of melted material before cooling and solidifying. There the rivers would remain, a permanently-hardened testament to the event that made them.

The image above, part of a NAC scan acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 9, shows a solidified melt flow dating back to the creation of Tycho crater approximately 108 million years ago –which may sound like a long time but it’s actually very recent for large-scale lunar features.

The flow is interrupted by a younger, 400-meter-wide crater that impacted the lunar surface along its length. Since it punches through the melt flow as well as the local surface, it would be a great place for future astronaut geologists to explore!

Taken under slightly different lighting conditions, the image below shows a large melt pond that the flow above terminates in. The pond is about 4500 meters long by 2100 meters across (2.8 x 1.3 miles).

Such images wouldn’t be possible without the awesome Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO explores the surface from an altitude of only 50 km (31 miles).

Explore further: Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

More information: lroc.sese.asu.edu/news/index.p… f-Rock.html#extended

Related Stories

Sunrise view of Tycho crater's peak

Jun 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- On June 10, 2011, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft angled its orbit 65° to the west, allowing the LRO Camera NACs to capture a dramatic sunrise view of Tycho crater.

Scientists suggest evidence of recent lunar volcanism

Apr 16, 2012

A team of researchers at India’s Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) claims it has found evidence of relatively recent volcanic activity on the Moon, using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter ...

A 'melted' moon makes for bad future landing sites

Mar 05, 2012

The miniature radio frequency (min-RF) radar instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is revealing some interesting things about how impact melts form around craters on the Moon. Impacts produce ...

The Floor of Tycho Crater

Jan 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Tycho Crater is an one of the most prominent craters on the moon. It appears as a bright spot in the southern highlands with rays of bright material that stretch across much of the nearside. ...

Face-to-face with some shattered lunar boulders

Feb 28, 2012

Breaking up may be hard to do, but these two lunar boulders seem to have succeeded extremely well! Imaged by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) in October of 2009, this crumbled couple was recently ...

LRO lets you stand on the rim of Aristarchus crater

Dec 30, 2011

Have you ever you looked up at the bright, cavernous Aristarchus Crater on the Moon through a telescope or binoculars and wondered what it would be like to stand on the rim and peer inside? Spectacular new ...

Recommended for you

NKorea launch pad expansion 'nearing completion'

11 hours ago

A U.S. research institute says construction to upgrade North Korea's main rocket launch pad should be completed by fall, allowing Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng) to conduct a launch by year's end if it decides to do so.

Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

17 hours ago

Look up at the night sky this week and you'll find Mars and Saturn together in the west. Mars stands out with its reddish colouring and you might just be able to detect a faint yellow tinge to Saturn. ...

User comments : 0