It’s 9:30 at night. You’re just returning home from dinner, ready to brew an evening cup of chamomile tea. But before sauntering indoors, you make time for a glance at the moon. A glowing sphere speckled with vague, smooth, dark designs gazes back. It’s polished, bright, and most of all, familiar.
But this is the only side of the moon you’ve ever seen from down here. There’s a whole other side to the lunar surface, the far side, but we can’t observe it because it doesn’t turn to Earth. It never will. 1959 was the first time humanity even got a glimpse of the hidden region, thanks to the Soviet Luna 3 probe, and it wasn’t anything like what we’re used to.
It was rugged, spotted with tons of craters, and it lacked those characteristic deep gray patterns. Later missions even revealed it to be filled with totally different elements. In essence, our moon has two faces, and scientists are still trying to solve the mystery of why they’re so different.
But a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances might finally have an explanation for one major aspect of this enigmatic lunar duality. It has to do with dark shadows, a massive impact many billions of years ago, and… lava.
The team behind the new study asked a similar question.
An image of the moon’s far side.
NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
They utilized virtual experiences to see what might’ve continued long, long (sometime in the past, way before there was any volcanic movement on the moon’s surface. All the more explicitly, they re-made an enormous effect that, billions of quite a while back, changed the foundation of the moon, shaping a colossal hole that we presently allude to as the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) bowl.
“We realize that large effects like the one that framed SPA would make a great deal of hotness,” Matt Jones, a planetary researcher from Brown University and lead creator of the review, said in a proclamation. “The inquiry is what that hotness means for the moon’s inside elements.”
What they found is that this enormous crush would’ve made a tuft of hotness that conveyed a lot of explicit substance components to the close to the side of the moon, and not the far side. “We expect that this added to the mantle softening that created the magma streams we see on a superficial level,” Jones said.
At the end of the day, those components probably added to a time of volcanism on the lunar face we can see from Earth however it left the far side immaculate.
The side we’re familiar with.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University
Strikingly, this theory likewise lines up with one more tricky lunar differentiation: Many locales close to the side are known to contain synthetics like potassium and phosphorus and hotness delivering ones like thorium and other intriguing earth components. By and large called Procellarum KREEP rock formation, or PKT, these components are absent on the moon’s far side. It’s curious.
Yet, these are unequivocally the materials the new review’s analysts tracked down prodding volcanic action in their reenactments, on the close to the side of the moon and because of the effect.
“How the PKT shaped is the main open inquiry in lunar science,” Jones said, “and the South Pole-Aitken sway is one of the main occasions in lunar history. This work unites those two things, and I think our outcomes are truly invigorating.”
They call their solution credible about all the lunar data we have, but it’s still a theory that’ll require more confirmation as the years go on. Regardless, the next time you catch yourself taking in the moon’s beauty, maybe you’ll give the concealed and bumpy far side a little thought too.