A new study recently found, the moon has more crater than most people thought. In the information released by Live Science, over 109,000 new craters were identified in the "low-and-mid-latitude regions of the moon" using artificial intelligence or AI, that was fed data gathered by Chinese lunar orbiters.
The number of craters recorded on the surface of the moon is now more than a dozen times bigger than it was in the past. The study results were published in the Nature Communications journal in December 22.
According to Earth sciences associate professor Chen Yang from Jilin University in China, and the study's lead author, it is the largest database for lunar crater with automatic extraction "for the mid- and low-latitude regions of the moon.
The Live Science report also specified that impact craters, "formed during the meteor strikes," cover most of the surface of the moon.
Lunar Correspondent of 'Fossils'
Furthermore, Yang said, impact craters can be considered the lunar correspondent of "fossils" that record the solar system's history.
Yet, these 'fossils' can dramatically differ in shape and size, and they can overlay and grind down over time. This makes "identifying them and dating them" extremely hard time-consuming.
The process is subjective, too, resulting in inconsistencies among available databases. Yang, together with her team, approached these problems through the use of AI, also known as machine learning.
The study authors trained a deep neural network where a computer uses layers of mathematical computations feeding into each other with data coming from formerly identified craters and taught the algorithms to discover new ones.
Small- to Medium-Sized Craters
The said network was used to data which the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 lunar orbiters were able to collect, showing more than 109,000 additional craters on the moon's surface.
A considerable number of craters detected in this study are categorized as "small to medium-sized" craters, although form the perspective of an Earthling, they are still fairly large, ranging from 0.6 to 60 miles or one to 100 kilometers in diameter. The relatively small size of the craters is possibly why they were not traced in the past.
However, the AI program spotted too, much larger and irregularly-shaped craters that, according to the researchers, had eroded. Some of those identified were up to 341 miles or 551 kilometers in diameter.
Additionally, the algorithm also approximated, when nearly 19,000 of the craters were formed according to their features, such as depth and size, and by designating each to a "geological time period."
The said craters spanned all five of the moon's lunar geological periods, and some return roughly four billion years.
The research team looks forward to improving their "crater-spotting algorithm" by providing data from the recently launched Chang'e 5 lander, which recently returned lunar samples to Earth.
Furthermore, the study investigators want to adapt too, and apply their AI approach to other bodies in the solar system which include planets like Mars.
In their study, the researchers wrote, such a prediction "will generally take minutes, followed by a few hours of post-processing" on a standard computation device.