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

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

However, this mysterious anomaly, reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by Baylor University, could give more insight into the moon's geological history. If you're wondering why you may not have seen it before, that's because it's on the moon's far side.

An unexpectedly massive patch of metal under the surface of the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin could be as big as the Hawaii Island, new research suggested. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", lead author Dr. Peter James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor University, said in a statement.

We're already getting a few clues about the ancient goings-on at the South Pole-Aitken basin from other sources, too.

Scientists drew up the new hypothesis based on the data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specifically from the space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) missions. Instead, the researchers believe the dense mass is actually leftover material from the object that struck the Moon and created the colossal crater.

The mass was nearly discovered by accident as researchers were examining the moon's subtle changes in gravity by analyzing data from spacecraft used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. From the data, the team theorized it could be the iron-nickel core of an asteroid that lodged itself deep in the upper mantle of the moon, which is that intermediary layer between the crust and core.

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One is that "the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon's mantle" rather than sinking into its core after an impact some 4 billion years ago, James said. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spent almost 10 years at work and has made billions of measurements of the precise height of the moon's surface. "While larger impact events undoubtedly occurred throughout the solar system during planetary accretion, most indications of these events were erased through subsequent bombardment and thermally induced viscous relaxation".

And while scientists have studied craters on Mercury and Mars, the best place to turn to when attempting to unravel the mystery of the early solar system is to look to the closest thing to Earth.

While there have been many craters that have formed due to asteroid impacts over time, none are as well-preserved as the Aitken basin, which is thought to have been formed four billion years ago. The team notes that a concentration of dense oxides associated with the final stages of a magma ocean solidifying inside the moon would also produce the same readings.

The basin near the bottom of our sole natural satellite is an oval-shaped crater several miles deep and up to 1,242 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide.