Published: Wed, June 12, 2019
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Moon anomaly: ‘MASSIVE’ deposit beneath Moon’s largest crater is ancient asteroid metal

Moon anomaly: ‘MASSIVE’ deposit beneath Moon’s largest crater is ancient asteroid metal

When the research team combined the data with lunar topography results from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the large mass was discovered, one which is big enough to weigh down the basin floor by a little less than a kilometre.

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. James is assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor's College.

"It is one of the best natural laboratories for studying catastrophic impact events, an ancient process that shaped all of the rocky planets and moons we see today". As the name implies, it's located near the south pole of the moon as well, and experts believe it was created perhaps 4 billion years ago.

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.

"One of the explanations of this extra mass", James said, "is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon's mantle". "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected". This mysterious anomaly beneath the moon's crater is located near the Moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, and researchers believe that it may hide the metal that came from an asteroid that crashed into the Moon.


The researchers analysed data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission (GRAIL).

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. The researchers do not know what the mass is, but it appears to extend down beneath the moon's surface by over 180 miles.

So when the team saw an increase in the gravitational tug of the moon roughly lining up with the neighborhood of the South Pole-Aitken basin, the scientists wondered if the anomaly could trace directly back to the crater itself. It states that due to the richness in oxides, the area was formed during the Moon's tumultuous past when vast masses of magma flow cooled down and solidified.

In the new study, the researchers ran impact simulations to show that this underground debris could, theoretically, be the remnants of a heavy iron-nickel asteroid that got stuck part way to the lunar core.

Compared to other bodies in our Solar System, Earth's moon isn't particularly huge.

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