Ka-tching " Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. Scientists at Baylor University published a study detailing their findings of this "anomaly" beneath the moon's largest crater, at its South Pole.
According to the researcher, the Moon crater 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 that the South Pole-Aitken basin - thought to have been created about 4 billion years ago - is the largest preserved crater in the solar system.
We're already getting a few clues about the ancient goings-on at the South Pole-Aitken basin from other sources, too.
The Aitken basin crater is oval-shaped and about 2,000 kilometers wide - roughly the same distance Waco, Texas, and Washington, D.C. It's also several miles deep.
The researchers from Baylor used various sets of data collected from space crafts that measure the gravity around the Moon, and compared them to maps and imaging of the Moon's surface. When that happened, the asteroid drilled through layers of the moon's crust while losing mass of its own.
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We can't see it from here on Earth, but detailed readings made using lunar orbiters indicate there is something huge enough under that crater to be causing a significant gravitational anomaly.
The GRAIL readings revealed something very heavy tugging down the bottom of the South Pole-Aitken crater by more than half a mile.Whatever it was, the offending anomaly was buried hundreds of miles below the moon's surface. Experts believe that this crater may be, perhaps 4 billion years old and the largest crater known to planetary science.
Baylor scientists believe the mass may also be suspended iron-nickel core from an asteroid that previously impacted the moon's surface.
The material was discovered on the Moon's Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin, which is 2500km in diameter and takes up one-fourth of the celestial satellite's surface.
This unusual dense mass is causing the basin floor to go down by more than half a mile and according to computer simulations of big asteroid impacts, it's possible that under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid can be distributed into the upper mantle (the layer sandwiched between the Moon's crust and core), during an impact.
Whatever formed the basin almost 4 billion years ago remains a mystery, but the blow was so strong that it likely punched all the way through the moon's crust and tossed part of the lunar mantle - a deeper geologic layer - onto the surface. While many bigger impacts have occurred in the solar system and even on Earth, evidence of those impacts have been lost.