At 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) across, the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the Moon's far side covers almost a quarter of the lunar surface - and there's something massive buried beneath it. To me, this story about scientists discovering a massive metallic mass underneath a crater on the Moon has exactly the same vibes. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", author Peter B. James said in a release. With the crater's topography, researchers can better understand the characteristics of the far side of the Moon and how other space objects could alter it.
Researchers say it could be a huge lump of metal from the asteroid that formed the South Pole-Aitken basin.
The feature lurks deep beneath a 2,500km-wide impact crater called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which we can't see from Earth.
Two datasets contributed to the research: topography data from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and global gravity data from the pair of small Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft.
While I personally would love to believe that this is aliens, Dr James suggests a more reasonable explanation: "One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon's mantle". The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin.
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The Moon's South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin and mass anomaly are pictured here in this false-color graphic. According to NASA's research, the recently-discovered material is weighing down the basin floor by more than half a mile. While they are unsure where the asteroid came from or even if it was an asteroid that created the crater at all, they are sure that the mass is sitting in the upper mantle of the Moon, and hasn't sunken to the core.
Scientists suspect the unusual deposit beneath the crater may contain metal from the asteroid that formed it.
This crater can not be seen from earth because it's on the far side of the moon.
An image of the lunar surface showing its various basins.
"We did the math and showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact could remain suspended in the Moon's mantle until the present day, rather than sinking to the lunar core", Dr. James said.
Alternatively, the mass might be a dense region caused by the Moon's magma ocean solidifying as our satellite cooled and aged. That would yield something like the large mass they see today, which sits underneath the same area it impacted and blew apart so long ago. These impact basins are said to control the moon's geology.