Scientists Find New Discoveries on the Differences Between the Near and Far Side of the Moon

Researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island identified new differences between the Moon’s near and far sides that are linked to a massive ancient impact.

According to a new study published in Science Advances, the impact that created the Moon’s vast South Pole–Aitken (SPA) basin would have created a large jet of heat that spread throughout the lunar interior where certain components such as a suite of rare-Earth and heat-producing elements would have been delivered to the Moon’s nearside by that plume.

Matt Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University and Brown assistant professor Alexander Evans collaborated on the work alongside Purdue University, the Lunar and Planetary Science Laboratory in Arizona, Stanford University, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We know that big impacts like the one that formed SPA would create a lot of heat,” said Jones, adding that “The question is how that heat affects the Moon’s interior dynamics. What we show is that under any plausible conditions at the time that SPA formed, it ends up concentrating these heat-producing elements on the nearside. We expect that this contributed to the mantle melting that produced the lava flows we see on the surface.”

The Soviet Luna missions and the U.S. Luna missions first showed the variations between the near and far sides of the Moon in the 1960s. 

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