What's Causing The Huge Mass Anomaly Beneath The Moon?

Katie Ramirez
June 12, 2019

On the far side of the moon, buried nearly two hundred miles under the South Pole-Aitken basin (the largest preserved crater in our solar system), is a mysterious mass. Peter B. James and his team of scientists from Baylor University believe it could be the metal core of an asteroid which head-butted the moon and left that 1,242-mile-wide crater behind.

USA space agency NASA has detected a mysterious mass of material beneath a 1,200 mile-wide crater on the Moon's surface. Despite its size, it can not be seen from Earth because it is on the far side of the Moon.

Scientists studying the moon have made an unexpected discovery.

Researchers say it could be a huge lump of metal from the asteroid that formed the South Pole-Aitken basin.

As the oval-shaped crater can not be seen from Earth because of its location on the far side of the Moon, researchers analysed data from spacecrafts used for NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

Researchers led by Peter James from Baylor University, Texas, were studying the structure of the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

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

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The mysterious mass of material is found buried under South Pole-Aitken basin, the moon's largest crater, and may contain substances from an asteroid that crashed into the Moon and created the crater, the statement quotes the Baylor University Study. The dashed circle shows the location, size and depth of the mass anomaly under the basin.

The Moon's South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin and mass anomaly are pictured here in this false-color graphic. 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.

If the mass is a metallic asteroid core, it didn't get stuck inside the moon intact; instead, computer simulations suggest it could have spread out as it struck.

James' research suggests that the nickel and iron that made up the asteroid could have stayed embedded in the Moon's middle layers, rather than sinking into the denser core over the eons. The mass is five times bigger than Hawaii's Big Island and is located hundreds of miles beneath the lunar surface.

Even though larger impacts could have occurred throughout the solar system, including on our planet, most traces of larger impacts are no longer available.

Another possible explanation for the anomaly, the researchers wrote, is that the area is rich in oxides, which likely would have formed as the moon's ancient magma ocean cooled and solidified.

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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