The Real Man in the Moon?

A new study published in the British journal of Nature has finally explained the ‘man in the moon’.No scientists haven’t gone crazy searching for a fictitious being with a rocket ship in its eye, the man in the moon or the Oceanus Procellarum is a giant basin on the near side of the moon, previously thought to be caused by a giant asteroid collision.

The real man in the moon
The real man in the moon

The region is a 3,000-km diameter basin that is visible to the naked eye as the dark patches of the moon in the night sky, although subsequent asteroid strikes have pockmarked the area with smaller (relatively speaking) impact craters. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have created the highest resolution map of the basin using data obtained from NASA’s twin-probe G.R.A.I.L mission.The research has found that the perimeter of the Oceanus Procellarum is not circular as previously thought, but composed of edges that are at about 120-degree angles, polygonal. “As asteroid impacts tend to produce circular or elliptical craters, the Procellarum’s angular shape could not have been caused by an impact”, said study author Maria Zuber, professor and vice president of the MIT.


So if it wasn’t an asteroid, what caused the basin to form? Using the gravitational data collected by G.R.A.I.L, the researchers confirmed their hypothesis that the basin could have been formed by a large plum of lunar lava that rose from the moons interior. The steep difference in temperature between the magma plume and the surrounding crust caused the surface to contract over time, creating a “magma plumbing system” that flooded the region between three and four billion years ago. When the magma solidified it formed the dark basalts that are visible from earth. Maria Zuber, who is principal investigator for the GRAIL mission said, “How such a plume arose remains a mystery, it could be due to radioactive decay of heat-producing elements in the deep interior. Or, conceivably, a very early large impact triggered the plume. But in the latter case, all evidence for such an impact has been completely erased.” Stay curious – C.Costigan #goscience

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