Could the moon be younger than most realize? A new study shows that craters on the moon form quicker than previously thought, which means many features on the lunar surface are not as old as astronomers had predicted.
Astronomers at Arizona State University and Cornell University recently set out to measure the formation rate of craters on the moon. To do so, they compiled thousands of high-resolution “before and after” images of the moon’s surface captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The amount of time that elapsed between the before and after pictures varied, ranging from 176 to 1,241 days.
After collecting the images, the astronomers ran the photographs through computer software that identified any changes between the “before and after” images. The results showed that the moon’s surface as shown in the “after” images is spotted with more than 200 new craters that did not exist when the initial batch of photographs was captured.
“From this temporal dataset, we detected 222 new impact craters,” the astronomers wrote in a paper published by “Nature” on Thursday. The largest craters they identified were about 140 feet in diameter.
The scientists were surprised to find this many new impact craters on the moon’s surface because NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched fairly recently, in 2009. That means that all 222 of the craters identified by the researchers must have formed in the past seven years, which is 33 percent more than current models had predicted.
“There are more fresh craters measuring at least 10 meters across than standard cratering calculations would suggest,” wrote “Nature” science journalist Alexandra Witze. “This could mean that some young lunar surfaces may be even younger than thought.”
Because crater-counting is one way to estimate the age of a planetary surface, astronomers say that they will need to revisit their dating estimates of the moon’s surface.
“Planetary geologists will also need to rethink their understanding of the age of the lunar surface, which depends on counting craters and estimating how long the terrain has been pummeled by impacts,” Witze said.
Not only does this study invalidate the idea that craters only form over long eras, but the research suggests that these regular impacts could completely alter the surface of the moon within a timescale of thousands—not millions—of years.
“I’m excited by the fact that we can see the regolith evolve and churn—a process that was believed to take hundreds of thousands to millions of years to occur—in images acquired over the past several years,” one of the researchers told “Space.com.”
Citing various pieces of evidence, Christian scientists reason that the moon’s age is significantly younger than most evolutionary scientists estimate. Dr. Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist with the Institute for Creation Research, says the moon “moves about an inch and a half farther away from the earth every year” due to tidal interactions with the earth, which means it is almost certainly not billions of years old.
“Six thousand years ago, the moon would have been about 800 feet (250 m) closer to the earth (which is not much of a change considering the moon is nearly a quarter of a million miles, or 400,000 km, away),” Lisle writes in his book “Taking Back Astronomy.”
“So this ‘spiraling away’ of the moon is not a problem over the biblical time scale of 6,000 years, but if the earth and moon were over 4,000,000,000 years old (as big-bang supporters teach), then we would have big problems,” he says. “This is because the moon would have been so close that it would actually have been touching the earth less than 1.5 billion years ago. This suggests that the moon can’t possibly be as old as secular astronomers claim.”