Research

Scientists Find Mystery Mass Under Moon’s Surface

Scientists Find Mystery Mass Under Moon’s Surface

A large and mysterious mass of material has been discovered under the Moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, a study by the Baylor;s College of Arts and Sciences in Texas shows.

A odd large mass of material has been detected under the Moon's largest crater and may contain metal from an asteroid that crashed into the lunar surface and formed the crater, according to a Baylor University study.

Scientists studying the moon have made an unexpected discovery.

The Chinese lander Chang'e-4 and its Yutu-2 rover are now exploring the Von Karman crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin, and NASA also wants to target the South Pole for future exploration.

At roughly 1,550 miles in diameter, the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin covers approximately one-fourth of the Moon's surface, according to NASA. James' team published their research April 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Baylor scientists discovered the mass by analyzing data taken from spacecraft used during NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

The South Pole-Aitken basin, understood to be around 4 billion years old, is the largest preserved crater we have discovered in the solar system - over ten times larger than the largest crater on Earth. Beneath this basin lies a odd anomaly-an excess of mass extending at least 300 kilometers down, more than 10 times the depth of the Earth's crust. This distinction makes the South Pole-Aitken basin a subject of frequent research.

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Whatever this thing is, it's dense enough to make the crater floor sink over half a mile.

While I personally would love to believe that this is aliens, Dr James suggests a more reasonable explanation: "One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon's mantle".

"We did the math and showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact could remain suspended in the Moon's mantle until the present day, rather than sinking to the Moon's core", said James.

According to computer simulations, if conditions are just right, the iron-nickel core of an impacting asteroid can be dispersed into the upper mantle, between the Moon's crust and core. Meanwhile, the LRO has been mapping the lunar surface for a decade.

It could be the leftovers of dense oxides created in the last years when the moon's surface was an ocean of magma - a theory that relies on the giant-impact hypothesis, when an impactor the size of Mars may have collided into a magma-covered Earth, ejecting magma into orbit that became the surface of the moon. That would yield something like the large mass they see today, which sits underneath the same area it impacted and blew apart so long ago.

Finding out how the South Pole-Aitken basin formed is important to understanding the history of the moon and its evolution.


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