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June 17, 2019

There’s something big buried under the moon’s surface and astronomers don’t know what it is

June 12, 2019
The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue. The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin.

Billions of years ago, something hit the moon and created one of the biggest impact craters in our solar system and whatever caused the crater might still be there.

Researchers have just discovered that there’s something massive buried beneath the moon’s surface. Whatever it is, it’s huge — estimated to weigh 4.8 quintillion pounds (a number with 17 zeroes).

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“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” author Peter B. James said after the research was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The research team used data about the moon’s gravity collected from space crafts and maps and imaging of the moon’s surface to conclude there was a dense metallic mass in the moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin.

It could be metal embedded in the moon’s mantle left by an asteroid believed to have hit the moon over 4 billion years ago. If that’s the case, the mass, and the surrounding area could tell future researchers what the solar system was like back then.

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The Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969

“[The basin 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,” James said.

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