Compared to other bodies in our Solar System, Earth’s moon isn’t particularly huge. However, its relatively small size belies one of its most interesting features, which is a colossal crater measuring over 1,500 miles across. Now, researchers believe the crater, which forms a huge basin on the far side of the Moon near its south pole, is hiding something.
In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers reveal the discovery of a huge mass hiding beneath the crater. An incredibly dense area under the lunar surface was detected with gravitational sensors, pointing to the presence of something massive lurking below.
Before you go imagining a mysterious subterranean civilization of Moon Men hiding out below the lunar surface, that’s not exactly what scientists have in mind. Instead, the researchers believe the dense mass is actually leftover material from the object that struck the Moon and created the colossal crater.
“One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon’s mantle,” lead author of the paper, Peter B. James, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”
It’s an incredibly large mass of something, but the asteroid metal theory isn’t the only idea being floated. Another possibility is that the dense mass is a buildup of material still left over from when the Moon’s hot liquid rock cooled after formation.
With humans headed back to the Moon sooner rather than later, the crater could be an interesting location for further study, though NASA and other space-faring organizations already have plenty of scientific objectives on their plates. Still, it sure would be neat to see what’s down there.