The Moon’s largest crater is hiding something, and astronomers don’t know what

James Marshall
June 12, 2019

On the far side of the moon, buried nearly two hundred miles under the South Pole-Aitken basin (the largest preserved crater in our solar system), is a mysterious mass. Peter B. James and his team of scientists from Baylor University believe it could be the metal core of an asteroid which head-butted the moon and left that 1,242-mile-wide crater behind.

A unusual large mass of material has been detected under the Moon's largest crater and may contain metal from an asteroid that crashed into the lunar surface and formed the crater, according to a Baylor University study. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", author Peter B. James said in a release. Despite its size, however, we can't see this crated from Earth because it's on the far (dark) side of the Moon.

However, we won't know for sure whether this is the case or not until we actually put some boots (or wheels) on the Moon to study the unknown mass in situ.

These oxides have a great deal of mass, which somehow could have been concentrated beneath the South Pole-Aitken Basin (although that "somehow" is yet to be explored).

NASA explains that the South Pole-Aitken basin is roughly 1,550 miles in diameter. 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.

Two datasets contributed to the research: topography data from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and global gravity data from the pair of small Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft.

Buried under the largest, oldest crater on the Moon, scientists have discovered an enormous mass of dense material, possibly the remains of the asteroid that formed the crater some 4 billion years ago.

Wedged deep into the Aitken basin, our natural satellite's South Pole, one can find a mysterious mass of material, report researchers from the Baylor University.

With humans headed back to the Moon sooner rather than later, the crater could be an interesting location for further study, though NASA and other space-faring organizations already have plenty of scientific objectives on their plates.

Another explanation is that, following the impact that formed the basin, a huge ocean of metal-rich magma pooled inside of the lunar crust and solidified into a dense slab. It is one of the biggest impact craters of the known solar system but, because it is located on the far side of the moon, can not be viewed directly from Earth. While they are unsure where the asteroid came from or even if it was an asteroid that created the crater at all, they are sure that the mass is sitting in the upper mantle of the Moon, and hasn't sunken to the core. These impact basins are said to control the moon's geology.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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