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gravity anomaly moon

Researchers detect mass anomaly under largest crater of moon

A largely massive material was discovered under the largest crater of our very solar system, the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin. This appears to be quite mysterious as it contains metals from an asteroid that had crashed into the moon, resulting in the huge crater as per a study by the Baylor University.

Envisage a situation wherein you take a pile of metal, approximately five times larger than the islands of Hawaii and bury it. The discovery of the mass was as unexpected as this hypothetical situation. The crater is oval in shape and is nearly 2,000 kilometres wide, which is roughly the distance between Delhi and Bangalore. Although it is very large, it’s quite unlikely that you might get to see it.

According to the study “Deep Structure of the Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin” published in the journal Geophysical Research Lettersin order to measure the subtle changes in the power of gravity around the Moon, scientists had to analyse a huge amount of data from spacecrafts which have been used for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

The dense mass along with its mysterious existence weighs the basin floor downward by more than half a mile. Computer simulations of the existing large asteroid impacts suggested that under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid can get dispersed in the upper mantle.

“We did a lot of math and it showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact could remain suspended in the Moon’s mantle until this present day, instead of just sinking to the core of the Moon, like other asteroids,”  Peter B. James, the co-author remarked.

Another possibility of the existence could be that the mass is the concentration of dense oxides linked to the last stage of lunar magma solidification. He thinks that the South Pole -Aitken basin has been created about 4 billion years ago and it has been preserved since then. Though many impacts have occurred throughout the solar system, it has lost most of its traces with the course of time.

James refers to the basin as one of the best pre-existing natural laboratories for studying destructive impact cases which refers to the age-old process which shaped the solar system as we see it.

This research work was supported through the NASA Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) science team and a team of intelligent, like-minded investigators and researchers hailing from GRAIL.

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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