Moon Sheds Light on Earth's Impact History

  • Released Thursday, February 7th, 2019
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:10AM
  • ID: 4708

Scientists have found a new way to estimate the ages of relatively large, young craters on the Moon using data from the Diviner instrument on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The method has identified over 100 craters younger than one billion years and larger than 10 kilometers across. The ages suggest that the cratering rate has more than doubled over the last 290 million years or so.

The Earth's crater record shows the same pattern. It was thought that some of the older craters were erased by weathering and geological processes, but the new Moon data suggest that the Earth record is a true reflection of the cratering rate — that the Earth has been hit more often in the recent past than it was a few hundred million years ago.
A print-resolution still image of the Diviner rock abundance data overlaid on the lunar globe.

A print-resolution still image of the Diviner rock abundance data overlaid on the lunar globe.

The Diviner rock abundance map key.

The Diviner rock abundance map key.

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Datasets used in this visualization

LRO (Collected with the Diviner sensor)
LRO DEM (A.K.A. Digital Elevation Map) (Collected with the LOLA sensor)
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LROC WAC Color Mosaic (A.K.A. Natural Color Hapke Normalized WAC Mosaic) (Collected with the LRO Camera sensor)
Mosaic Arizona State University

This natural-color global mosaic is based on the 'Hapke normalized' mosaic from LRO's wide-angle camera. The data has been gamma corrected, white balanced, and range adjusted to more closely match human vision.

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