Scientists Suspect Moon’s South Pole Anomaly to Be Caused by Metal

Mass Anomaly Detected Under the Moon's Largest Crater Study

"That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", James said in a press release. Despite its size, it can not be seen from Earth because it is on the far side of the Moon.

Researchers say it could be a huge lump of metal from the asteroid that formed the South Pole-Aitken basin.

The crater - which is where the Chinese lunar explorer Chang'e 4 landed in January - is 1,600 miles (2,000km) wide, 8.1 miles (13km) deep and is believed to be the largest crater in our solar system.

James is one of a handful of United States scientists who announced their discovery in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Researchers from Baylor University in Texas used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) missions to develop this new hypothesis on the origins of the basin. Deep below the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin (the largest preserved impact crater anywhere in the solar system), researchers have detected a gargantuan "anomaly" of heavy metal lodged in the mantle that is apparently altering the moon's gravitational field. Beneath this basin lies a odd anomaly-an excess of mass extending at least 300 kilometers down, more than 10 times the depth of the Earth's crust.

An unexpectedly massive patch of metal under the surface of the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin could be as big as the Hawaii Island, new research suggested.

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"The dense mass - whatever it is, wherever it came from - is weighing the basin floor downward by more than half a mile".

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. Larger variations helped tease out information about the moon's core, and subtler ones revealed unseen mineral deposits, asteroid impact sites, and subsurface features.

One other possibility for the unexplained mass is that it could be an area where dense oxides compiled following the last stage of lunar magma ocean solidification.

"We did the math and showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact remain suspended in the moon's mantle until the present day, rather than sinking to the moon's core", said James.

According to a study of the mysterious blob, published April 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the anomaly may be the heavy leftovers of the asteroid that crashed into the far side of the moon and created the giant South Pole-Aitken crater some 4 billion years ago.

Whatever formed the basin almost 4 billion years ago remains a mystery, but the blow was so strong that it likely punched all the way through the moon's crust and tossed part of the lunar mantle - a deeper geologic layer - onto the surface.

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