Scientists have discovered a mysterious mass under a crater at the moon's south pole. Here's what it is.
Imagine taking a pile of metal five times the size of the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. This is the mysterious mass that scientists discovered on the moon. What lies under the largest crater on the moon? This is what scientists are wondering after discovering a large, unusual mass beneath the lunar basin at the South Pole.
The south pole of the moon
The Lunar South Pole Basin is a giant impact crater with an inner rim extending about 2,000 km. The structure and history of this basin has always been a mystery to scientists. Data collected so far indicate that there is a “surplus” of mass in the lunar mantle below the lunar South Pole Basin. This anomaly is likely to extend to depths greater than 300 km.
What lies under the largest crater on the moon?
It is likely to be some kind of metal, given its density and the fact that it weighs about a kilometer below the crater floor. An ancient asteroid impact would be the logical solution. Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts indicate that, under the right conditions, an asteroid's nickel-iron core could be deposited in the lunar upper mantle (the layer between the lunar crust and the lunar core) after the impact.
What we know about the Antarctic-Aitken Crater
It is estimated that the Antarctic-Aitken Basin formed about 4 billion years ago. The solar system was a very chaotic place at the time, with collisions regularly occurring between rocky and metallic objects such as asteroids And young protoplanets. It seems very likely that this is how the Moon's dense underground mass got there.
However, another plausible theory is that the mass could be a concentration of dense oxides associated with the final stage of solidification of the lunar magma ocean. Scientists believe the Moon once had an ocean of some kind — not water, but magma, or molten rock — that then cooled and solidified. In this process, oxides may have deposited in this area, forming this mysterious mass.
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