Well That’s Weird…

The South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest crater in the Solar System, is a gigantic impact structure on the far side of the Moon. Data from NASA’s lunar spacecraft points to the existence of a large excess of mass of about 2.18*1018 kg (about five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii) in the lunar mantle underneath the basin. According to new research, this mass anomaly may contain metal from a massive asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater.

The South Pole-Aitken basin is oval-shaped, as 1,600 miles (2,500 km) wide and 8.1 miles (13 km) deep. Despite its size, it cannot be seen from Earth because, you know, it is on the far side of the Moon.

Researchers measured and analyzed small changes in the strength of gravity around the Moon, using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. When they combined that with lunar topography data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, they discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin.

The dense mass, whatever it is, wherever it came from, is weighing the basin floor downward by more than half a mile.

Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts suggest that, under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid may be dispersed into the lunar upper mantle during an impact.

The findings appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Curiosity Finds Mars Crater Once Held A Massive Lake

New data from NASA’s Curiosity rover indicate the red planet’s Gale Crater once contained a massive lake and that Mount Sharp, the mountain at the center of the 96-mile-wide crater, formed from the build-up of sediment over tens of millions of years. This suggests that Mars may have been a much wetter than previously thought.

The new finding suggests that large, long-lasting lakes once dotted the Martian landscape, increasing the possibility that the planet was once habitable.

Curiosity collected the new data on its five-mile drive to Mount Sharp, the prime destination on its mission to study Mars’ climate and geography. The rover landed in Gale Crater in August 2012.

In March, scientists discovered that the crater contained beds of sandstone that were tilted south toward Mount Sharp. They believed these rocks were deposited by streams that fed into a larger body of water in the center of the crater.

After reaching Mount Sharp in September, the rover spent two months studying rocks in the Murray formation at the base of the three-mile-high mountain, discovering fine layers of mudstone–which tend to collect at the bottom of lakes.

Peep the video.