On the far side of the moon is an Earth-like mass of rock

Using data from Chinese lunar orbiters, scientists have discovered what they think is a granite mass 30 miles below the moon’s surface.

Located under the far side of the Moon, it is unlike any previously discovered. Presented today at Goldschmidt Conference In Lyon, France, there is also a paper Published In the journal Nature.

On Earth, granite is the result of the cooling of molten lava from a volcano. It’s probably from a volcano that last erupted 3.5 billion years ago, but it’s still generating heat.

This is a stunning discovery, as granite on the Moon has only been found in traces in lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s. Plate tectonics was thought to require Earth-like conditions.

Scientists were confused

The area between the two lunar craters, called Compton and Belkovich, is believed to be an extinct volcanic caldera. „We’ve discovered extra heat coming out of the ground at a site on the moon believed to be a long-dead volcano” said Matthew Siegler, a research professor and research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. „We were a little confused when we found that out.”

The granite mass may have formed as lava beneath an ancient volcano cooled. It is radioactive, probably because it contains uranium and thorium, which makes the region appear warmer compared to the rest of the cooler lunar surface.

Cluster of volcanoes

The granite cluster was discovered using microwave-wavelength measurements from antennas on China’s Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 lunar orbiters.

„It used to feed any of the large granite volcanoes we see on Earth, just as a large system feeds the Cascade volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest today,” Siegler said. „It’s more Earth-like than we thought could be produced on the moon.”

The discovery is important because it comes from Earth-like processes. „Geologically speaking, it’s very difficult to make granite without water and plate tectonics, which is why we don’t really see those types of rocks on other planets,” said NASA Early Career Fellow Professor Stephen M. Elardo said; is a non-research assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Florida.

„So if this discovery by Siegler and colleagues holds up, it could be very important to how we think about the inner workings of other rocky bodies in the Solar System.”

The far side of the Moon cannot be seen from Earth because it is also facing away. The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, so it always shows the same familiar face.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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