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Will Lunar Vertex solve the mystery of lunar swirls?


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Some lunar scientists call it the most beautiful thing on the Moon: Reiner Gamma, a white, swirling, paisley-like pattern seemingly painted on the far reaches the Moon's northwest quadrant. It's a mystery, one visible through virtually any backyard telescope. And no one knows how it or other so-called lunar swirls got there.

Reiner Gamma is the most prominent of this strange class of lunar features. Lacking surface definition — swirls cast no shadows — it has baffled astronomers for a long time. Thomas Gwyn Elger wrote in 1895 that Reiner Gamma consisted of “six ill-defined white spots of doubtful nature…there is a large white marking, resembling a ‘[mouth] harp’ in shape.”

Nineteenth-century selenographers Wilhelm Beer and Johann Mädler thought it a plateau. So did British lunar expert Edmund Neison. Some early maps mistakenly identified the feature as a crater.


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