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Home / Science / Researchers discover anomalies under the largest lunar crater five times larger than Hawaii's Big Island

Researchers discover anomalies under the largest lunar crater five times larger than Hawaii's Big Island



By Meghan Bartels
11. June 2019, 10:41:02 EDT

  Lunar Topographic Map

A topographic map on the other side of the Moon is the South Pole Aitken Basin in blue tones and the mass anomaly studied in the new surveys shown in the dashed line. (Image: © NASA / Goddard Space Center / University of Arizona)

Below the surface of the South Pole Aitken Basin of the Moon, there is something very strange and very dense, new research suggests.

This unexpectedly massive spot can represent the buried remains of an asteroid that bounced off the lunar surface and formed this basin in the first place. This new hypothesis is based on data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions. When the scientists combined the two data types, they found a discrepancy between the surface topography and the gravitational tug of the moon.

"Imagine taking a metal pile five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground," said study leader Peter B. James, a geoscientist at Baylor University in Texas, in a statement. "We discovered about as much unexpected mass."

The research relied on two key missions in NASA's Moon Exploration portfolio. The GRAIL mission included two spacecraft circling the moon for more than a year, with each spacecraft using the other to depict the moon's gravitational tug. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has worked for almost 10 years, making billions of measurements of the exact height of the lunar surface.

In the South Pole Aitken Basin the topography is particularly impressive. The feature is a massive crater that extends 2,000 kilometers beyond the other side of the moon, making it the largest crater planetary explorer known to date. As the name implies, it is also near the South Pole of the Moon, and experts predict it was created about 4 billion years ago.

So, when the team noticed an increase in the moon's gravity roughly in line with the moon. In the neighborhood of the South Pole Aitken Basin, scientists wondered if the anomaly was due directly to the crater itself. "One of the explanations for this extra mass is that the metal of the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the lunar mantle," said James. It's rich in oxides that have probably formed than the ancient magma ocean Down also offers scientists a fascinating idea: these facts suggest that the inside of the moon can not be too stupid; If that were the case, the gravity of the moon would drag the massive spot into the center of the moon.

The research is described in an article published on April 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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