The Mystery of Lunar Swirls
It’s time to showcase lunar swirls again! The previous Image of the Week to focus on lunar swirls was in July 2010 (see link below) and since then more work has been done on what they actually are.
Lunar swirls are bright areas on the lunar surface that are associated with magnetic anomalies in the Moon’s crust. It is thought that these weak magnetic fields prevent the solar wind from changing the surface which is why it remains brighter than the surrounding area which slowly darkens as the solar wind modifies it.
We appear to know why lunar swirls form (due to the magnetic anomalies) but we still don’t know why the magnetic anomalies are where they are and why and how they formed.
The LROC article below, The Swirls of Mare Ingenii, is well worth a read and has some stunning images of swirls.
Reiner Gamma swirl (Latitude: 7.25 Longitude: -60.62)
Quote: Lunar swirls are among the most beautiful and bizarre features on the Moon. Seen as bright, sinuous regions, swirls are associated with weak magnetic anomalies in the Moon’s crust. Images from LROC, and the topographic information extracted from those images, have shown that swirls have no topography associated with them; they are not higher or lower than their surroundings. Instead, it is as if someone has taken a brush and laid down a beautiful swath of bright paint.
Quote: Scientists from RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have solved a lunar mystery and their results might lead the way to determining if the same mechanism could be artificially manipulated to create safe havens for future space explorers. Their work focussed on the origin of the enigmatic “lunar swirls” – swirling patches of relatively pale lunar soil, some measuring several tens of km across, which have been an unresolved mystery – until now.