Planets and Moons  ID: 4175

GRAIL Gravity Map for the Cover of Geophysical Research Letters

This print-resolution still image was created for the cover of the May 28, 2014 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. It features a free-air gravity map of the Moon's southern latitudes developed by S. Goossens et al. from data returned by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

If the Moon were a perfectly smooth sphere of uniform density, the gravity map would be a single, featureless color, indicating that the force of gravity at a given elevation was the same everywhere. 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 free-air gravity map shows deviations from the mean gravity that a cueball Moon would have. The deviations are measured in milliGals, a unit of acceleration. On the map, purple is at the low end of the range, at around -400 mGals, and red is at the high end near +400 mGals. Yellow denotes the mean.

The map shown here extends from the south pole of the Moon up to 50°S and reveals the gravity for that region in even finer detail than the global gravity maps published previously. The image illustrates the very good correlation between the gravity map and topographic features such as peaks and craters, as well as the mass concentration lying beneath the large Schrödinger basin in the center of the frame. The terrain in the image is based on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) altimeter and camera data.


Visualization Credits

Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Animator
Sander Goossens: Scientist
Erwan M. Mazarico (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): Scientist
Laurence Schuler (ADNET): Project Support
Ian Jones (ADNET): Project Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Science Paper:
High-resolution local gravity model of the south pole of the Moon from GRAIL extended mission data

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LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

Data Used:
LRO/LOLA/Digital Elevation Map
GRAIL/Lunar Gravity Ranging System/Free-Air Gravity
LRO/LROC/WAC 643nm High Sun Global Mosaic
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of this series:
The Moon

SVS >> Gravity
SVS >> Lunar
SVS >> Moon
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Lunar Topography
SVS >> Lunar Elevation Map
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory