Scientists discover a mysterious ‘giant’ heat-emitting blob on the far side of the moon

Researchers have uncovered a strange hot spot on the back side of the moon. The most likely culprit is a rock that is very rare outside of Earth.

Scientists have discovered an anomalous blob of heat on the back side of the moon. A new study has identified a curious source for this mysterious hotspot: It’s likely from the natural radiation of a massive buried granite deposit, which is typically only found on Earth.

Scientists discover a mysterious 'giant' heat-emitting blob on the far side of the moon 1
A map of the moon and its many craters, showing regions with more gravity in red and regions with less gravity in green and blue. The map of the moon’s far side taken by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Recent observations of the moon’s far side revealed this strange heat anomaly could be a long-dead volcano. Image credit: NASA/ARC/MIT

The researchers believe that a dormant volcano on the moon that has been inactive for 3.5 billion years may be the origin of this immense granite formation.

According to Matt Siegler, the lead study author from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, granite formations on the Moon are much more Earth-like than previously thought, despite the lack of water and plate tectonics that are present on Earth (as stated in a press release).

Siegler and Rita Economos from Southern Methodist University found evidence of heat beneath the lunar surface by utilizing microwaves in a new way to measure temperatures by Chinese orbiters Chang’E 1 and 2. Additionally, data from NASA’s Lunar Prospector and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters were used in their research.

Researchers discovered an area of around 50 km in diameter where the temperature was approximately 10°C higher than its environment. This area is positioned beneath a circular region of the surface which is abundant in silicon and is believed to be the location of an extinct volcano that last erupted 3.5 billion years ago. It is suggested that the magma left behind by the volcanic activity is still present and producing radiation beneath the surface.

Economos noted in the statement that a 50 km-wide batholith was discovered. This type of volcanic rock is formed when molten lava rises but does not reach the surface. Two comparable granite rocks, El Capitan and Half Dome, located in Yosemite, California, have made their way to the top.

In their report published in the journal on July 5, the researchers revealed their initial discoveries, and further information was given at the Goldschmidt Conference on geochemistry in Lyon, France, on July 12.

In a statement, Stephen M. Elardo, a geochemist at the University of Florida who had no involvement in the study, called the findings “incredibly interesting.” Elardo went on to note that granite is ubiquitous on Earth, but not on other planets in the solar system.

He commented that granite countertops are ubiquitous in kitchens, but the difficulty in forming it without the presence of water and the process of plate tectonics is why it is rarely seen on other planets. Therefore, if the research from Siegler and their team is proven correct, it could have a huge influence on our understanding of the interior of other rocky bodies in the Solar System and the possibility in their future uses.

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