Anomalies On Moon's South Pole Could Be Caused By Metal Asteroid Impact
Anomalies On Moon's South Pole Could Be Caused By Metal Asteroid Impact
An 'Anomaly' the Size of Hawaii Is Buried Beneath the Moon's Biggest Crater
12 June, 2019, 22:53
Dr James added: "When we combined that with lunar topography data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered that the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin". However, this mysterious anomaly, reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by Baylor University, could give more insight into the moon's geological history. James called the crater "one of the best natural laboratories for studying catastrophic events" that was influential to the evolution of rocky planets and moons. As the name implies, it's located near the south pole of the moon as well, and experts believe it was created perhaps 4 billion years ago.
We're already getting a few clues about the ancient goings-on at the South Pole-Aitken basin from other sources, too.
Scientists say they've detected a huge metal mass "firmly embedded" beneath a crater on the moon, possibly the remnants of a massive asteroid strike billions of years ago. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", said lead author Peter B. James in a press release. At 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) across, the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the Moon's far side covers almost a quarter of the lunar surface - and there's something massive buried beneath it. Despite its size, however, we can't see this crated from Earth because it's on the far (dark) side of the Moon. 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. When that happened, the asteroid drilled through layers of the moon's crust while losing mass of its own.
Whatever the mass is, the team believes it can explain some of the features of the South Pole-Aitken basin-specifically that the central depression of the crater is being weighed down by this mass, rather than being caused by the contraction of the "melt sheet"-found where impacts take place".
This odd dense mass is causing the basin floor to go down by more than half a mile and according to computer simulations of big asteroid impacts, it's possible that under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid can be distributed into the upper mantle (the layer sandwiched between the Moon's crust and core), during an impact.
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. While larger impacts may have occurred throughout the solar system, including on Earth, most traces of those have been lost.
Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts suggest that, under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid may be dispersed into the lunar upper mantle during an impact.
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