Regular Geometric Patterns
Formed by Moon 'Spires'
By WILLIAM JURY
| Unmanned photographic flights
by the three Lunar Orbiter space
craft gave scientists more infor-
mation about Earth's neighbor
than has been obtained in the last
half century of studying the moon with telescopes.
But one photograph beamed back from space by Lunar Orbiter
has raised new questions.
On Nov. 22, the National Aero-
nautics and Space Administration
released a copy of a Lunar Orbiter
|2 picture which newsmen promptly
dubbed "the photo of the spires."
The photo showed the familiar
dimpled lunar surface, but also re-
vealed seven distinct shadows
stretching out from surface pro-
tuberances or monolith structures.
The picture was from Orbiter'
Primary Site 4, near the western
edge of the dry Sea of Tranquility.
The largest of the shadows was
(See ANALYSIS, Page 4)
the kind the Washington Monument would throw either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Estimates placed the height of the tallest spire at 70 feet. The smaller shadows looked as if they were cast by something about the size of a large Christmas tree.
· Natural Phenomena Cited
Most of the experts could not remember having seen anything
like it before on the moon, but whatever the 'spires" were, it was agreed
they were natural phenomena, most likely rock outcrops or large fragments
deposited by meteor impact.
As did most persons, William Blair of Seattle first saw the "photo of the spires" in his newspaper. But in Blair, an anthropologist in Boeing's biotechnology unit, it struck a nostalgic note. More than a decade ago he had specialized in physical anthropology and archeology, and the spires in the photo him of years he spent surveying and test-trenching mounds, depressions and rock structures.
Using aerial survey maps to determine possible prehistoric archeological sites in the Great Basin of the arid West and the Great southwest, Blair would look for a geometric patterns in certain earth's structures. "Except for primitive, nomadic peoples," Blair explained, "man tends to construct single and multiple structures in geometric forms."
. Analysis Conducted
Mostly as an exercise to see whether he still had his
touch, Blair took the spires photo, and with a compass and protractor conducted
what he called 'a limited and highly speculative analysis of suspect coordinate
relalionships . . ."
If the spires were the result of geophysical events or forces, Blair reasoned, one would expect to find them distributed randomly. Triangulation should produce irregular triangles. Instead, Blair's triangles included a basic x, y and z right angle coordinate system, six isosceles triangles and two axes consisting of three points each.
Also included in his "geometric speculations" is what appears to be a large rectangular shaped depression or "pit" directly west of the largest spire. The shadow cast by this depression, Blair pointed out, seems to indicate four 90-degree angles and somewhat resembles the profile of a pit structure, the walls of which have subsequently eroded or sloughed inward.
Is Blair suggesting that the 'spires" may have been the work of transitory intelligence, possibly for celestial observation, navigation or communications?
"Whoa! Do you want them to put me away?" Blair objected. "But I will say this. If such a complex of structures were photographed on Earth, the archeologist's first order of business would be to inspect and excavate test trenches and thus validate whether the prospective site has archeological significance."
· Geophysical Event Suspected
Blair won't find many takers for his hypothesis among
physical and scientists. Dr. Richard W. Shorthill of the Boeing Scientific
Research Laboratories sides with the majority of scientists who believe
the spires in the Lunar Orbiter photo are the result of some geophysical
Dr. Shorthill probably knows the features of the moon's near side better than most persons know the topography of their own counties. With his colleague, John M. Saari, he has investigated irregular temperatures on the moon for several years and has compiled maps of so-called lunar "hot spots."
Dr. Shorthill doubts that the moon bumps are spires at all but rather modest-sized pieces of rock, perhaps chunks from the moon caused by meteors smashing into the lunar surface.
"These rocks, if that's what they are, are resting on a local surface which was tilting away from the sun when the photograph was taken," Dr. Shorthill said. "That accounts for the long shadows."
· Comparison Made
Explaining the phenomenon, he likened the rocks on the inclined surface
to trees growing on the steep slope of a mountain. When the sun comes up
over the mountain, he added, the shadows cast by the trees are quite long.
How does he account for Blair's regular geometric patterns?
"There are many of these rocks on the moon's surface," Dr. Shorthill said, "You can see them in the Copernicus photo (a Lunar Orbiter photograph of the huge crater Copernicus). Pick some at random and you eventually will find a group that seems to conform to some kind of pattern."