First global map of rockslides on the Moon

First global map of rockslides on the Moon. Individual boulders on steep slopes and cliffs can slide, roll and bounce in the valley below, a process known as rockfall. This happens with boulders on Earth and on the Moon. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and ETH Zurich in Germany have analyzed a collection of more than two million images of the lunar surface and presented the first global map of rocks on the Moon in the edition of today from Nature Communications.

Rockslides on the Moon

Their analysis suggests that impacts that are driving lunar rock displacement, not lunar earthquakes, appear to be occurring, and that the billion-year-old landscape is still evolving. In October 2015, a spectacular rockslide occurred in the Swiss Alps: in the late morning, a large snow-covered block with a volume of more than 1,500 cubic meters suddenly dislodged from the top of the Mel de la Niva .

He fell on the way downhill, but many stones continued their journey into the valley. After traveling more than 1.4 kilometers and through forests and meadows, a large rock stopped at the foot of the summit next to a mountain refuge.

Rock blocks to Earth

On the Moon, rocks and blocks repeatedly drift downward, leaving impressive footprints, a phenomenon that has been observed since the first unmanned flights to the Moon in the 1960s. During the Apollo missions, astronauts examined some of the footprints at the site and returned samples of displaced rock blocks to Earth.

However, until a few years ago, it was difficult to observe how widespread these rock movements are and where they actually occur. The vast majority of the displaced stones on the Moon are between seven and ten meters in diameter, explains Valentin Bickel of MPS and first author of the new study at ETH Zurich.

Previous space probes that have studied the Moon could not detect such small features on a global scale, he says. It was not until 2010, with the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, that images of the entire lunar surface with the required spatial resolution and coverage became available.

In recent months, Bickel has examined a collection of more than two million of these images. Not manually, of course. Instead, they have implemented a search algorithm that works with a neural network that gradually learns to recognize specific rockfall clues in satellite images. The result is a map of the lunar surface between 80 degrees north and south latitude that shows 136,610 rockfalls with a diameter of more than eight feet.

New global map of rockslides

For the first time, this map allows us to systematically analyze the phenomenon and causes of falling rocks in another celestial body, says Dr. Urs Moll of MPS. Scientists previously believed that lunar earthquakes in particular were responsible for the displacement of rocks.

The new global map of rockslides indicates that asteroid impacts may play a bigger role. They are responsible, directly or indirectly, for more than 80 percent of all observed rockfalls.

ETH Zurich Prof. Dr. Simon Lowe says: Most of the rocks are close to the crater walls. Some rocks move shortly after impact, others much later. The researchers speculate that the impacts cause a network of cracks that extend to the underlying base. Therefore, the surface parts may become unstable even after a long time.

Modifies the geology

Surprisingly, traces of rockfall events can be found even in the oldest lunar landscapes, that is, in areas of the pre-Imbrian period that formed 4 billion years ago or even earlier. Since these traces usually disappear after a few million years, these surfaces are still subject to erosion by rockslide, even billions of years later.

“Obviously, it affects and modifies the geology of a region on very, very long timescales,” says Bickel. The results also suggest that very old surfaces are still developing on other airless bodies such as Mercury or the large asteroid Vesta. Where the rocks are unrelated to the crater, there is the possibility of seismic or volcanic origin.

For example, the researchers found rockslides near tectonic fractures and volcanic holes. Therefore, the new global map can help identify currently unknown seismically active regions. For future robotic or even manned missions to the Moon, such areas could be potentially challenging. Planetary scientists make the first global map of moon rocks

Using artificial intelligence and big data-based approaches, a team of planetary researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar Systems Research and ETH Zurich have analyzed a collection of more than 2 million high-resolution images and 136,610 moon rock falls.

The global map is created. planning. Maps of the global lunar distribution of rockfall in both globalization (70 ° N to 70 ° S) and polar projection (60 ° N to 80 ° N and 60 ° S to 80 ° S). Mapping results above 75 ° N and above 75 ° S may be less complete due to challenging light conditions (indicated by transparent white areas).

Rockfall in both globalization

The rock fall density is given in quadrants per square degree, that is, the number of rock falls from 2 ° latitude to 2 ° longitude. The box shows examples of stonework and its tracks with different sizes.

Maps of the global lunar distribution of rockfall in both globalization (70 ° N to 70 ° S) and polar projection (60 ° N to 80 ° N and 60 ° S to 80 ° S). Mapping results above 75 ° N and above 75 ° S may be less complete due to challenging light conditions (indicated by transparent white areas).

The rock fall density is given in quadrants per square degree, that is, the number of rock falls from 2 ° latitude to 2 ° longitude. The box shows examples of stonework and its tracks with different sizes. Over a multi-million dollar period of time, the erosion process forms the smooth topography and forms the surfaces of the terrestrial planets and their satellites.

Lunar earrings

In the atmosphere, like the Moon, erosion is believed to occur primarily through space weathering. However, recently acquired high-resolution images have revealed a striking feature on lunar earrings: massive wear characteristics. These include granular flows, landslides, slaps, and chills, as well as rock falls.

A process in which the rock is released or ejected from the topographic elevation and the landslides fall, roll, and ascend. Rockfall has carved tracks on the lunar surface, providing a record of the dynamic scrolling process. The characteristic combination of a displaced rock or a rock fragment and its trajectory allows an ambiguous identification from satellite images.

Scientist in the department and planets of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. Valentin Bickel said: “The vast majority of migrants on the moon are between 7 and 10 meters in diameter.”

In Earth Sciences ETH Zurich

“Previous space probes have studied moons that were unable to detect such small features globally.” An example of a moon rock. In the new study, Drs. Bickel and his colleagues analyzed a collection of more than 2 million high-resolution images taken by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

They used a neural network in combination with advanced cloud computing capabilities to map the location and size of moon rock falls. They identified 136,610 lunar surface rock fall events in the latitudinal range of 80 ° N to 80 ° S, with an average spatial density of 2 Rockefels per 1 square per 1 °.

For the first time, this map allows us to systematically analyze the incidence and causes of reefs that occur in another celestial body, co-authored by the Department of Planets and Comets of the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research..Ursa Mall said.

Department of Earth Sciences

The team found that asteroid impacts, directly or indirectly, accounted for more than 80% of all observed rock falls. Most of the rocks are near the crater walls. Some rocks are displaced shortly after impact, others much later, said Professor Simon Lowe, co-author of the Department of Earth Sciences at ET Zurich.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found traces of rock fall events in the oldest lunar landscape, dating back 4 billion years or even earlier. Dr. “Obviously, it affects and modifies the geology of a region, for a long time,” said Bickel.

The results also suggest that very old surfaces are still developing in other airless bodies like Mercury or the large asteroid Vesta. The team’s article was published in the Nature Communications Journal. First global map of rocks on the Moon.

ETH Zurich in Germany

The first map of rockslides on the Moon shows 136,610 events and indicates that the oldest lunar landscapes are still evolving. Different stones can slide, roll and bounce in the valley below on steep slopes and rocks.

A process known as rockfall. It occurs on earth and with the rock on the moon. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar Systems Research (MPS) and ETH Zurich in Germany have analyzed a collection of more than two million images of the lunar surface.

And presented the first global map of falling rocks on the moon in the edition from Nature Communications today. Their analyzes suggest that non-lunar effects of moons shift appear, and that billion-year landscapes are still evolving.

After a stunning reef in the Swiss Alps at Mel de la Neiva in 2015, a large stone came not far from a mountain refuge. In October 2015, a spectacular rockslide occurred in the Swiss Alps: in the early hours of the morning.

A large snow-covered block with a volume of more than 1,500 cubic meters suddenly broke away from the top of the Mel de la Niva. It got out of its way, but many rocks continued its journey through the valley. After traveling more than 1.4 kilometers and through forests and pastures, a large stone spire stopped.

Diameter of between 7 & 10 meters

An example of a lunar rock about 13 meters wide in a Nicholson crater that is separated from a rock. On the Moon, again and again rocks and rocky reefs slide downward, leaving impressive footprints.

A phenomenon that has been observed since the first unmanned flights to the Moon in the 1960s. During the Apollo mission, the Astronauts examined some of those footprints at the site and returned samples of displaced rock blocks to Earth. However, until a few years ago.

It was difficult to observe how widespread these rock movements are and where they actually occur. The first author of the new study, Valentin Bickel of MPS and ETH Zurich, explains: The vast majority of those displaced on the moon have a diameter of between seven and ten meters.

Previously, space probes were unable to detect such small features on a global scale on the moon, he said. It was not until 2010, with the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, that all images of the space surface were available, with the necessary spatial resolution and coverage.

In recent months, Bickel has searched a collection of more than two million of these images. Not manually, of course. Instead, he has implemented a search algorithm that works with a neural network that gradually learns to recognize specific clues of falling rocks in satellite images.

Global map of rockslides

The result is a map of the lunar surface between latitudes 80 ° north and south that shows 136,610 rockfalls with a diameter of more than eight feet. For the first time, this map allows us to systematically analyze the occurrence and causes of rocks occurring in another celestial body, MPS to Drs.

Ursa Mall says. Previously, scientists believed that lunar quarks in particular were responsible for the displacement of rock. The new global map of rockslides indicates that the effects of asteroids may play a much larger role. Apparently, directly or indirectly, they accounted for more than 80 percent of all Rockefals observed.

ETH Zurich Professor Drs. “Most of the rocks are near the crater walls,” says Simon Lowe. Some of the rocks shift shortly after impact, others much later. The researchers hypothesize that the effect causes a network of cracks that extend to the underlying base.

Researchers found tectonic fractures

Therefore, some parts of the surface can become unstable even after a long time. Surprisingly, traces of rockfall events can be found even in the oldest lunar landscape, that is, areas in the pre-Imbrian period, which was formed 4 billion years ago or even earlier.

Since such traces generally disappear after a few million years, these surfaces are apparently still subject to erosion by rockfalls, even billions of years after their formation. Apparently, the impact affects and modifies the geology of a region, for a long time, says Bickel.

The results also suggest that much older surfaces are still developing on other airless bodies such as Mercury or the large asteroid Vesta. Where the rocks are not related to craters, they are likely to have a seismic or volcanic origin.

For example, the researchers found tectonic fractures and rockfalls near volcanic vents. Therefore, the new global map can help identify areas that are currently active anonymously. For future moons or even crew missions, these areas can be potentially challenging.

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