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Surprising number of meteoroids hit moon’s surface

Lunar images reveal over 200 new craters and about 47,000 undiscovered ‘splotches’

By
8:00am, November 16, 2016
map of craters on moon's surface

CRATER CRAZE Images captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from 2009 to 2015 revealed 222 new impact craters (in yellow) on the moon. Red dots are new craters whose impacts were observed from Earth.

The moon is one tough satellite. With no atmosphere, it endures a barrage of incoming asteroids and comets that pit its surface with a constellation of craters. A new map (above) reveals 222 recent impact craters (in yellow), 33 percent more than simulations predicted. Scientists spotted the features by analyzing about 14,000 pairs of before-and-after images captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from 2009 to 2015. (Red dots note new craters whose impacts were observed from Earth.)

The craters — up to 43 meters in diameter — were probably formed by small meteoroids crashing into the crust. Using the image pairs, the researchers created ratio images, which highlight how the impacts alter the reflectance of the moon’s surface. That perspective illuminated the starburst debris patterns around the craters (below, left).

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