Researchers Discover Mysterious Material Under Moon's Largest Crater

Mass Anomaly Detected Under the Moon's Largest Crater Study

Mass Anomaly Detected Under the Moon's Largest Crater Study

All of that metal, and basically the entire area surrounding the mass and the crater, could tell them a lot about how the asteroid impact happened and what the solar system was like when it did. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", said James, a professor of planetary geophysics who recently published a study in Geophysical Research Letters.

The crater can't be seen because it's on the far side of the moon.

Yet its size and the fact that the anomaly appears to be located about 186 miles (300 km) down also offers scientists an intriguing idea: the moon's insides can't be all that gooey; if they were, the moon's gravity would pull the massive patch into the lunar centre.

The Chinese lander Chang'e-4 and its Yutu-2 rover are now exploring the Von Karman crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin, and NASA also wants to target the South Pole for future exploration.

The other mission was the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which involved two spacecraft - GRAIL A and GRAIL B - working in tandem to detect variations in the strength of the moon's gravitational field.

The mass of the metal "anomaly" beneath the moon's largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds. The South Pole-Aitken basin is the oldest crater on the Moon - it's covered with newer, smaller impact scars, but still clearly visible.

The mystery mass, circled, is beneath an impact crater on the far side of the moon.

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. Beneath this basin lies a unusual anomaly-an excess of mass extending at least 300 kilometers down, more than 10 times the depth of the Earth's crust.

The gravitational force of "whatever it is, wherever it came from", James said, is so great that it drags down the floor of the basin by more than 800m. Meanwhile, the LRO has been mapping the lunar surface for a decade.

While the true origin of the metal mass is still unconfirmed - another theory is that it's actually a concentration of dense oxides arising from the last stage of lunar magma ocean solidification -the researcher used computer simulations to theorize that a large asteroid impact could have dispersed the material into the moon's upper mantle.

James' research suggests that the nickel and iron that made up the asteroid could have stayed embedded in the Moon's middle layers, rather than sinking into the denser core over the eons. Or, intriguingly, the extra mass could suggest the presence of an enormous metal core deposited in the Moon mantle, left over from the impact.