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The Once and Future Moon

Ocean of Storms, Oceans of Argument

1 Nov 2012, 19:19 UTC
Ocean of Storms, Oceans of Argument
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A new paper claims mineral evidence for the largest basin on the Moon -- is it true?

LRO topographic map of the Moon, showing the approximate outline of the "Procellarum" basin on the near side (left) and the South Pole-Aitken basin on the far side (right). One's real, the other isn't.
Once upon a time, back in the Dark ages when I was a young student of lunar science, an idea was advanced that Oceanus Procellarum (the largest dark maria on the near side of the Moon) was the site of an ancient, almost obliterated impact basin. This “Procellarum basin” (then called the “Gargantuan” basin – superlatives fail us sometimes) has been invoked to explain any and every observed aspect of lunar geology, from the distribution of the dark mare lavas, the near/far side dichotomy, the thickness of the crust, the composition of highland rocks, and the relative amounts of radioactively generated heat flow in the Moon. Such a useful concept to explain so much!
The acceptance by lunar scientists of a Procellarum basin has waxed and waned over the years. Originally proposed by Peter Cadogan in 1974, the presence of a large, ancient impact basin covering most of the ...

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