Monday, 24 June, 2019

Gravity 'Anomaly' at Moon's South Pole Could Be Buried Metallic Asteroid

Mass Anomaly Detected Under the Moon's Largest Crater Study Mass Anomaly Detected Under the Moon's Largest Crater Study
Sandy Nunez | 12 June, 2019, 04:54

"When we combined [the gravitational data] with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin", Dr James said.

A large mass of unknown material has been discovered on the largest crater on the Moon and scientists aren't sure what it is.

This false-color graphic shows the topography of the far side of the Moon.

However it formed, the fact that the mass anomaly is still so prominent and that it seems to be located about 186 miles (300 km) down also offers scientists an intriguing idea: These facts suggest that the moon's insides can't be all that gooey; if they were, the moon's gravity would pull the massive patch into the lunar center. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue.

According to a study from Baylor University in Texas, a huge mass has been discovered beneath with South Pole-Aitken basin, a 2,500-kilometre-wide crater on the surface of the moon. Analysis of the two taken together revealed "a conspicuous mass excess in the mantle" under the basin with around 2.18 quintillion (that's 10^18) kilograms extra mass, according to the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from spacecraft used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to measure small changes in the strength of gravity around the Moon.

The crater is on the far side of the moon and can not be seen from Earth.

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Scientists suspect the unusual deposit beneath the crater may contain metal from the asteroid that formed it.

This mass, the researchers believe, is weighing the floor of the basin downward by more than 800 metres, around 10 percent of its total depth, explaining a depression in the bottom of the basin previously attributed to contraction.

In addition to being the largest crater on the Moon, the Pole-Aitken basin is also one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system and is thought to be approximately 4 billion years old.

The South Pole-Aitken basin - the largest crater in the Solar System - is a big impact structure on the far side of the Moon.

Another possibility is that the large mass might be a concentration of dense oxides associated with the last stage of lunar magma ocean solidification.

An image of the lunar surface showing its various basins.

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. There's still much to learn about the ancient and complex geology of the area, which marks a key event in the Moon's tumultuous history.