Published: Thu, June 13, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Massive Metal 'Anomaly' Detected 180 Miles Beneath The Surface Of The Moon

Massive Metal 'Anomaly' Detected 180 Miles Beneath The Surface Of The Moon

Researchers say that find will alter our understanding of the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the pivotal locations for studying catastrophic impact events.

A new research suggests that that the South Pole-Aitken basin of the natural satellite has the buried remains of an asteroid that crashed to form the basin. The dashed circle shows the standing of the mass anomaly below the basin. At about 2,000 km wide the South Pole-Aitken basin is the largest crater known to scientists, with the newly-discovered mass underneath it being large enough to affect the moon's gravity.

The unknown dense mass is weighing down the carter's basin floor by half a mile. However, this mysterious anomaly, reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by Baylor University, could give more insight into the moon's geological history.

Instead, the mass is likely a large sort of underground island of metal. It's thought to be the largest and oldest intact crater on any planetary body within the solar system. "That is roughly how considerable surprising mass we detected", lead author Dr. Peter James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor University, said in a assertion. The first was from NASA's GRAIL mission, a pair of orbiting spacecraft that mapped the Moon's gravitational field in 2011 and 2012 to try to shed some light on its interior structure.

Another theory that explains the existence of the Moon's mass anomaly was posited by scientists.

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While the researchers don't have a definite answer to what could be hiding in the crater, James and his team believe that it's a metal suspended inside the moon's mantle, caused by the asteroid impact around 4 billion years ago, during the early days of the solar system. It is one of the biggest impact craters of the known solar system but, because it is located on the far side of the moon, can not be viewed directly from Earth.

James and his team analyzed gravitational changes around the moon using NASA data from its GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) mission and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

The other is that the mass contains the remnants of the moon's magma ocean, with the oxides concentrating there as it solidified when it cooled billions of years ago.

While still unconfirmed, Baylor researchers suspect that the mass is iron-nickel that dispersed into the upper mantle of the moon's crust during impact.

"One of the biggest values of this is not just understanding this fascinating feature on the moon - although that's in and of itself really interesting - but it really does help us understand more broadly what it means for large impacts and the role they have in shaping the planets in the solar system".

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