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Is the moon all it's cracked up to be? Yes — and then some. New analysis of the lunar surface reveals that it's far more fractured than once thought.
Since the moon formed 4.3 billion years ago, asteroid impacts have scarred its face with pits and craters. But the damage goes far deeper than that, with cracks extending to depths of 12 miles (20 kilometers), researchers recently reported.
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These findings helped to address questions raised by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), a mission that sent twin spacecraft to the moon in 2011 to create the most detailed lunar gravity map to date.
Data gathered by GRAIL showed that the moon's crust was far less dense than expected, Sean Wiggins, lead author of the new study and a doctoral candidate with the Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences Department at Brown University in Rhode Island, told Live Science.
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Wiggins and his colleagues suspected that ancient impacts could have substantially fractured the lunar surface, "adding porosity and therefore lowering the density," he said.
Using simulations, the study authors found that an impact from an object measuring just 0.6 miles (1 km) in diameter could have opened cracks reaching depths of 12 miles (20 km) in the lunar surface. After impacts from objects measuring 6 miles (10 km) in diameter, cracks yawned to similar depths, but also extended laterally to...
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