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Origin of moon's largest crater revealed

AAP logoAAP 28/10/2016

US researchers have discovered the origin of Orientale, the moon's largest crater, according to the journal Science.

The discovery, which was the result of two studies reported in two separate articles, was possible thanks to data collected in 2012 by the lunar-orbiting twins of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

Orientale, which is 930km wide and was formed 3800 years ago, is on the southwestern edge of the moon, at the edge of its visible face.

According to the study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University, the asteroid that created the crater was 64km wide and struck the moon's surface at 15km/h.

The impact created a crater whose dimensions did not coincide with its existing size, and sent the lunar crust flying out from the impact site that crashed to the surface and created giant faults through the crust.

This process led to the formation of the three concentric rings of rock that are visible today.

"Big impacts like the one that formed Orientale were the most important drivers of change on planetary crusts in the early solar system.

Thanks to the tremendous data supplied by GRAIL, we have a much better idea of how these basins form, and we can apply that knowledge to big basins on other planets and moons," geologist Brandon Johnson, of Brown University, said.

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