Planets and Moons  ID: 4218

Procellarum Rifts for the Cover of Nature

Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, is the largest of the dark maria visible to the naked eye on the near side of the Moon. Its relatively flat surface of basaltic lava covers most of the northwest quadrant of the Moon's disk.

The leading explanation of Procellarum's origin is that it is a large, ancient impact basin. But the authors of a paper in the October 2, 2014 edition of the journal Nature suggest instead that this region is the result of the way the lunar crust cooled billions of years ago.

The red in the image shown here is part of a pattern of gravity anomalies revealed by data from the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna and his coathors interpret this rectangular feature as a remnant of the plumbing system that moved magma to the surface of the Moon's near side, flooding low-lying areas with lava.

The rectangular shape differs from the circular shape expected for an impact basin. It more closely resembles the pattern of cracks that form in materials subjected to thermal stress. In fact, the paper compares the shape of the Procellarum gravity anomaly with a feature spanning the south pole of Enceladus, the ice-covered moon of Saturn.


Visualization Credits

Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Animator
Jeff Andrews-Hanna: 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:
J. Andrews-Hanna et al., Structure and evolution of the lunar Procellarum region as revealed by GRAIL gravity data, Nature, 2 Oct 2014, p. 68

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LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

Data Used:
LRO/LOLA/Digital Elevation Map
GRAIL/Lunar Gravity Ranging System/Bouguer Gravity
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 >> Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
SVS >> Lunar Topography
SVS >> Lunar Elevation Map
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory