Parts of a Star Astronomy



There is a bizarre rocky landscape, well hidden from our prying eyes, in the secretive shadows under the oceans of our Earth. Here, in this strange and alien domain, it is always as dark as midnight. Thin, tall towers of craggy rock emit billows of black smoke from their peaks, while all around the towers stand a weird, wavy multitude of red-and-white, tube-like organisms--that have no eyes, no intestines, and no mouth. These 3-foot-long tubeworms derive their energy from Earth itself, and not from the light of our nearby Sun--a feat that most biologists did not believe possible until these wormish creatures were discovered back in 2001. The extremely hot, superheated black water, billowing out from the hydrothermal vents erupting on Earth's seafloor, provides high-energy chemicals that sustain the tubeworms, as well as other weird organisms that apparently thrive in this very improbable habitat. With the GRAIL data, the astronomers were able to map the gravity field both in and around over 1,200 craters on the lunar far side. This region--the lunar highlands--is our Moon's most heavily cratered, and therefore oldest, terrain. Heavily cratered surfaces are older than smoother surfaces that are bereft of craters. This is because smooth surfaces indicate that more recent resurfacing has occurred, erasing the older scars of impact craters. The GRAIL mission determined the internal structure of the Moon in great detail for nine months during 2012. Armed with this the new information, GRAIL astronomers were able to redefine the sizes of the largest impact basins on the lunar surface.