Gravity map gives Moon a makeover

By Paul Harper

NASA's gravity map of the Moon has given it a colourful makeover. Photo / Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
NASA's gravity map of the Moon has given it a colourful makeover. Photo / Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA has created an image of the Moon like it has never been seen before.

The psychedelic lunar image is a "free-air gravity map" of our Earth's natural satellite, created by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

"If the Moon were a perfectly smooth sphere of uniform density, the gravity map would be a single, featureless colour, indicating that the force of gravity at a given elevation was the same everywhere," Nasa wrote on the Goddard Space Flight Center website.

"But like other rocky bodies in the solar system, including Earth, the Moon has both a bumpy surface and a lumpy interior. Spacecraft in orbit around the Moon experience slight variations in gravity caused by both of these irregularities."

The image shows deviations from the mean - the gravity a cueball Moon would have. The deviations are measured in milliGals, a unit of acceleration.

On the map, dark purple is at the low end of the range, around -400 mGals, and red is at the high end near +400 mGals. Yellow denotes the mean.

The image shows a part of the Moon's surface which is never visible from Earth. The large, multi-ringed impact feature near the centre is Mare Moscoviense, with the crater Mendeleev south of this.

The map was created for the front page of the February 8 issue of the journal Science.

* View the full image here.

- nzherald.co.nz

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