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No. 96: Nov-Dec 1994

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Lunar Crater Chains

The recent breakup of comet Shoemaker-Levi 9 into a long procession of fragments that subsequently crashed into Jupiter (SF#95) causes one to wonder whether similar events have occurred elsewhere in the solar system. On bodies with solid surfaces, the impacts of such processions would likely result in chains of craters. Jupiter's moon, Callisto, in fact, displays a dozen or so crater chains that might be attributed to processions of projectiles.

Crater chain on the floor of the lunar crater Davy
The crater chain on the floor of the lunar crater Davy (Nasa)
How about our own moon? H.J. Melosh and E.A. Whitaker have studied the close-up lunar photos and found two good candidates. The more spectacular lunar crater chain stretches 47 kilometers across the floor of the crater Davy. This chain consists of about 23 pockmarks each measuring 1-3 kilometers in diameter. A similar, more degraded chain is found in the crater Abulfeda. Melosh and Whitaker suggest that:

"...the Davy and perhaps the Abulfeda chains were created by tidally disrupted 'rubble pile' asteroids."

(Melosh, H.J., and Whitaker, E.A.; "Lunar Crater Chains," Nature, 369: 713, 1994.)

Comment. It is only natural to ask if the earth itself also bears the scars inflicted by similar processions of celestial debris. In SF#80, we described one such possibility located in Argentina. There are also those several hundred thousand Carolina Bays concentrated along the southeastern U.S. seacoast. These shallow depressions are in a shotgun pattern but are also thought to be the consequence of impacts -- perhaps a cloud of debris rather than a procession. (SF#82)

Lunar craters display many anomalies. See our catalog: The Moon and the Planets. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #96, NOV-DEC 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987