Washington, D.C. – Back in 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts orbiting the Moon photographed something very odd. Researchers called it “Ina,” and it looked like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
There’s nothing odd about volcanoes on the Moon, per se. Much of the Moon’s ancient surface is covered with hardened lava. The main features of the “Man in the Moon,” in fact, are old basaltic flows deposited billions of years ago when the Moon was wracked by violent eruptions. The strange thing about Ina was its age.
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago. Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old.
This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old.
“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
Written by Karl B. Hille
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – A grouping of 110 to 112 million-year-old dinosaur footprints pressed into mud from the Cretaceous Period have now been safely moved from their original setting on the grounds of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.
Until further scientific study is possible, the footprints, now wrapped in protective material, will be stored on the Goddard campus.
This imprint shows the right rear foot of a nodosaur – a low-slung, spiny leaf-eater – apparently moving in haste as the heel did not fully settle in the cretaceous mud, according to dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford. It was found recently on NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center campus and is being preserved for study. (Credit: Ray Stanford)