Why do we see the man in the Moon?

Oded Aharonson*, Peter Goldreich, Re'em Sari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Numerical simulations and analysis show that the Moon locks into resonance with a statistical preference of facing either the current near-side or far-side toward Earth. The near-side is largely covered by dense, topographically low, dark mare basalts, the pattern of which to some, resembles the image of a man's face. Although the Moon is locked in this configuration at present, the opposite one, with the current far-side facing Earth, is of lower potential energy and hence might be naively expected. Instead, we find that the probability of selecting each configuration depends upon the ratio of the asymmetry of the potential energy maxima, dominated by the octupole moment of the Moon, to the energy dissipated per tidal cycle within the Moon. If this ratio is small, the two configurations are equally likely. Otherwise, interesting dynamical behavior ensues. In the Moon's present orbit, with the best-estimated geophysical parameters and dissipation parameter . Q=. 35, trapping into the current higher-energy configuration is preferred. With . Q=. 100 in analogy with the solid Earth, the current configuration is nearly certain. The ratio of energies and corresponding probabilities were different in the past. Relative crater counts on the leading and trailing faces indicate an impact may have unlocked the Moon before it settled into the present configuration. Our analysis constrains the geophysical parameters at the time of the last such event.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)241-243
Number of pages3
JournalIcarus
Volume219
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012

Keywords

  • Moon
  • Moon, Interior
  • Satellites, Dynamics

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