Scientists from Rutgers University and the University of California Berkeley that were involved in a new study may have finally, at long last, solved the mystery of the strange lunar swirls that can be seen on the surface of the moon.
According to ScienceAlert, just by gazing into a telescope, these patterns that are known as lunar swirls can be easily spotted on the moon, and have previously been thought to be some kind of magnetic fields. Now, however, scientists believe that what viewers are really witnessing are subterranean lava tubes.
During the time of the Apollo 15 and 16 missions, scientists constructed maps of the moon that showed what may be causes of magnetism. This was particularly helpful as the moon does not have a global magnetic field, and back in 1979, the cause of the strange magnetism that was discovered was linked to the mapped lunar swirls.
Scientists noticed that on higher altitudes of the moon, these swirls were not quite as vivid as they were at lower altitudes and despite the fact that all of the lunar swirls each contain a magnetic field within them, some of the magnetic fields that have been found on the moon have no lunar swirls anywhere in sight.
Because of the bizarre interplay between magnetic fields and lunar swirls, Rutgers University-New Brunswick planetary scientist Sonia Tikoo explained that before the new study, “the cause of those magnetic fields, and thus of the swirls themselves, had long been a mystery. To solve it, we had to find out what kind of geological feature could produce these magnetic fields – and why their magnetism is so powerful.”
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Once scientists turned to computer modeling, it was found that these swirls on the surface of the moon were positioned close to some kind of magnetic object that that was situated close to the lunar surface. Lava dikes and lava tubes, which were created out of volcanic activity on the moon that ceased long ago, were believed to be these objects and were created between three to four billion years ago from basalt lava flows and eventually became magnetized, which created the magnetic lava tubes.
According to Tikoo, this phenomenon finally provided a good answer to the mystery of the moon’s lunar swirls.
“No one had thought about this reaction in terms of explaining these unusually strong magnetic features on the Moon. This was the final piece in the puzzle of understanding the magnetism that underlies these lunar swirls.”
The new study on the lunar swirls of the moon has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.