It is recognized that the Moon houses one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. This is the 2500-kilometer South Pole-Aitken basin. Located on the other side of the moon, it covers almost a quarter of its surface. A recent study reveals that there is something strange (and gigantic) that is hidden beneath this mysterious crater.
In fact, although we can not see it from here on Earth, they are detailed surveys using a lunar orbital that indicate something strange under this crater, causing a major gravitational anomaly.
This massive and unexpected spot could represent the buried remains of an asteroid, which would have fallen on the surface of the Moon and thus formed the basin.
This new hypothesis is based on data collected by the NASA Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in moon orbit. When scientists combined the two types of data, they found a gap between surface topography and the gravitational pull of our natural satellite. The study was published on April 5 in the journal Geophysical research charts.
" Imagine taking a metal stack five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground Wrote lead author Peter B. James, a geoscientist at Baylor University in Texas. " This allows us to perceive the amount of unexpected mass we detect ".
The research was based on two main missions in the NASA Moon Exploration Portfolio. GRAIL's mission included two spacecraft, which spent more than a year in orbit around the Moon, each using the other to map the Moon's gravitational pattern. The LRO probe, for its part, spent almost 10 years performing this mission and made billions of measurements of the precise height of the lunar surface.
With regard to the South Pole-Aitken basin, the topography is particularly impressive. It is a huge crater that stretches for 2,500 kilometers, making it the largest known crater to date. Experts believe that it was created perhaps 4 billion years ago, and as the name suggests, it is also near the South Pole of the Moon.
You may also like: Moon Earthquakes: The Moon still has a tectonic activity
So when the team noticed an increase in the Moon's gravitational force aligned with the vicinity of the South Pole-Aitken basin, the researchers wondered if the anomaly could be directly due 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. James said.
Another possible explanation, according to the scientists, is that the region is rich in oxides. The latter would probably have formed when the old lunar magma cooled and solidified.
Sources: Letters of Geophysical Research, Baylor University