Visible Universe Map



Water in its life-sustaining liquid phase exists beyond our own planet, both in our Solar System--and elsewhere. With oceans of water sloshing around on 71% of our own planet's surface, Earth still remains the only planet known to have stable bodies of liquid water. Liquid water is essential for all known life forms on Earth. The existence of water on the surface of Earth is the outcome of its atmospheric pressure and a stable orbit in our Sun;s circumstellar habitable zone. The habitable zone is that Goldilocks region, surrounding a star, where the temperature is not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life sustaining water to exist in its liquid phase. However, the origin of Earth's water still remains unknown. In addition, the newly collected data derived from the GRAIL mission helps astronomers redefine the late heavy bombardment--a proposed episode that occurred about 4 billion years ago, during which a heavy shower of projectiles pelted the bodies of the inner Solar System, including Earth and its beloved Moon, creating heavy lunar cratering in the process. The concept of the late heavy bombardment is primarily based on the ages of massive near-side craters that are either within, or adjacent to, dark, lava-flooded basins (lunar maria), that are named Oceanus Procellarum and Mare Imbrium. However, the composition of the material existing on and below the surface of the lunar near-side indicates that the temperatures beneath this area are not representative of Earth's Moon as a whole at the time of the late heavy bombardment. The difference in the temperature profiles may have caused scientists to overestimate the amount of crater-excavating projectiles that characterized the late heavy bombardment. New studies by GRAIL scientists indicate that the size distribution of impact craters on the lunar far-side is a more accurate reflection of the crater-forming history of the inner Solar System than those pock-marking the near-side. The astronomers found that larger craters, which excavated pits much deeper into the Moon's surface, only increased porosity in the underlying crust. This indicates that these deeper layers have not reached a steady state in porosity, and are not as fractured as the megaregolith.