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National Geographic: Huge mystery blob found under the moon’s far side

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Researchers have discovered something massive lurking underneath the far side of the moon: a mysterious blob with the mass akin to a pile of metal five times the size of the Big Island of Hawaii.

The structure, described in a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, sits at least 180 miles beneath the South Pole-Aitken basin—a colossal crater punched into the lunar landscape billions of years ago, when the moon’s initially molten surface had cooled just enough for impacts to leave a lasting mark.

The team discovered the anomalous blob by combining data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission with topography from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This data helped them refine past calculations for the thickness of the crater’s crust and the density of the mantle, revealing the odd underground excess of mass.

The blob is likely related to the crater’s formation, and it may be the remnants of an ancient impactor’s metal core, says study coauthor Peter James of Baylor University. While the excess mass isn’t immediately obvious from the surface, it does seem to be having quite an effect, dragging down the lunar landscape in a curious ovoid depression that sits more than half a mile lower than the surrounding crater floor, a feature known as the central depression.

“That’s a huge result,” says Daniel Moriarty, a lunar geologist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It really gives us a hint of what’s going on in the lunar interior.”

National Geographic

 

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