by Janice Friedman
Baylor University have just found something on the
Moon's largest crater that has left them confused and wondering how
exactly it got there in the first place.
"A team of
astronomers found a 'large excess of mass' under the Moon's
largest crater, the Aitken basin - likely a relic from an
ancient asteroid impact event, but perhaps something much
Lead researcher (Deep
Structure of the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin) Peter
B. James noted:
"Imagine taking a
pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii
and burying it underground. That's roughly how much unexpected
mass we detected."
So where exactly did this
enormous mass come from?
There are two theories,
but no solid answers just yet, Phys.org
"'The dense mass -
whatever it is, wherever it came from' - is weighing the basin
floor downward by more than half a mile, (James) said.
of large asteroid impacts suggest that, under the right
conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid may be dispersed
into the upper mantle (the layer between the Moon's crust and
core) during an impact.
"Another possibility is that the large mass might be a
concentration of dense oxides associated with the last stage of
lunar magma ocean solidification."
The Moon crater where the
anomaly was found is the largest preserved crater in the solar
system, making it an object of fascination for astronomers.
Dr. James called the
"one of the best
natural laboratories for studying catastrophic impact events, an
ancient process that shaped all of the rocky planets and moons
we see today."
Researchers found the
metallic mass thanks to space probes and other spacecraft that have
been taking photographs of the Moon, CNN
"The researchers from
Baylor used various sets of data collected from space crafts
that measure the gravity around the moon, and compared them to
maps and imaging of the moon's surface.
As a result, they
found a dense metallic mass pulling down on the floor of the
This new information
could well help explain the formation of various celestial bodies in
our solar system,
according to National
"'It's just so
Sara Mazrouei of Western
University's Center for Planetary Science and Exploration, who
was not involved in the work.
'And by improving our
understanding of this structure, scientists hope to better
understand the formation of bodies throughout our celestial
Dr. Moriarty and Professor Pieters
identified four distinct compositional regions
within and around the South Pole-Aitken basin on the Moon.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Sadly, the casual
stargazer cannot see the crater in question from Earth, as it's
literally on the
far side of the Moon.
So, for now, we'll just
have to content ourselves with the incredible images coming from