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Scientists Discover Huge Hotspot on Far Side of the Moon

Startling observations on the far side unveil a huge heat-emitting blob, potentially linked to an extinct volcano.
Startling observations on the far side unveil a huge heat-emitting blob, potentially linked to an extinct volcano. Credit: NASA/ ARC/ MIT

A group of scientists has made a fascinating discovery regarding an unusually huge heat-emitting blob located on the far side of the moon. This enigmatic hotspot appears to have originated from a massive hidden deposit of granite, a type of rock that is rarely found in such large amounts beyond our planet.

Recent research suggests that this extraordinary chunk of granite can be traced back to a dormant volcano on the moon, which has remained inactive for an astonishing 3.5 billion years.

According to Matt Siegler, the main researcher from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, “This is more Earth-like than we had imagined can be produced on the Moon, which lacks the water and plate tectonics that help granites form on Earth.”

Detection of subsurface temperatures on the moon

By employing a novel technique utilizing microwaves, scientists Matt Siegler and Rita Economos, in collaboration with Chinese lunar orbiters Chang’E 1 and 2, as well as NASA’s Lunar Prospector and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters, have successfully detected and measured subsurface temperatures on the moon.

Their investigation led them to a specific region spanning approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) in diameter, exhibiting a temperature roughly 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) higher than the surrounding areas.

This anomalous zone is situated beneath a surface feature measuring about 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) in diameter, known for its high silicon content and suspected to be a collapsed volcanic crater.

Although the dormant volcano ceased erupting an astounding 3.5 billion years ago, residual magma from its internal plumbing system is presumed to persist beneath the moon’s surface, emitting radiation and contributing to the observed elevated temperatures.

In a statement, Rita Economos explained, “This find is a 50 km-wide batholith; a batholith is a type of volcanic rock that forms when lava rises into the Earth’s crust but does not erupt onto the surface.”

On July 5, the scientists shared their preliminary discoveries in the esteemed scientific journal Nature.

Goldschmidt Conference on Geochemistry

Further elaboration was provided on the findings during a presentation at the Goldschmidt Conference on Geochemistry in Lyon, France.

Reacting to the research, Stephen M. Elardo, a geochemist from the University of Florida who was not directly involved in the study, expressed his utmost fascination, stating the findings as “incredibly interesting.”

Elardo emphasized that while granite is abundantly found on Earth, it remains conspicuously absent elsewhere within our solar system. “People don’t think twice about having a granite countertop in their kitchen.”

He further said, “But geologically-speaking, it’s quite hard to make granite without water and plate tectonics, which is why we really don’t see that type of rock on other planets. So if this finding by Siegler and colleagues holds up, it’s going to be massively important for how we think about the internal workings of other rocky bodies in the Solar System.”

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