There's an enormous, mysterious mass under the Moon's largest crater

Mysterious large mass discovered on Moon bewilders scientists: 'Whatever it is, wherever it came from'

"When we combined [the gravitational data] with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin", Dr James said.

A mysterious, large mass of material in the Moon's South Pole could be a treasure trove of metals. "That's roughly how much unexpected mass we detected", lead author Dr. Peter James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor University, said in a statement.

Earth's moon is hiding an enormous secret on its storied dark side.

Either way, should this mass anomaly continue to exist under further scrutiny, it's going to have important implications for scientists' understanding of the Moon's history. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue.

It sits 180 miles beneath the South Pole-Aitken basin - one of the solar system's largest impact craters, and the moon's oldest, at over 4 billion years - a massive dent spanning some 1,550 miles on the far side of the moon.

In the study, the team analyzed data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission (GRAIL). "The South Pole-Aitken basin is the largest preserved impact basin on the Moon and perhaps the largest universally recognized impact structure in the solar system", the team wrote. According to the published study, "Plausible sources for this anomaly include metal from the core of a differentiated impactor or oxides from the last stage of magma ocean crystallization", which hypothesizes the moon's surface was once a molten liquid ocean of magma.

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This mass, the researchers believe, is weighing the floor of the basin downward by more than 800 metres, around 10 percent of its total depth, explaining a depression in the bottom of the basin previously attributed to contraction.

"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 Moon's core", James said. 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.

Alternatively, the mass might be a dense region caused by the Moon's magma ocean solidifying as our satellite cooled and aged.

While there have been many craters that have formed due to asteroid impacts over time, none are as well-preserved as the Aitken basin, which is thought to have been formed four 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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