The moon’s subterranean secret
Scientists have detected an enormous and mysterious metallic mass lurking at least 180 miles beneath a huge crater on the moon’s south pole. “Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground,” lead author Peter James, from Baylor University, tells CBSNews.com. “That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.” James and his colleagues made the discovery by analyzing data from probes that measure gravity around the moon and comparing it to maps and images of the lunar surface. They discovered a mass estimated at 4.8 quintillion pounds (4,800 followed by 15 zeros) pulling down on the floor of the 1,550 mile–wide Aitken crater. Though they’re unsure exactly what this mass is, the researchers suspect it is the metallic core of a colossal asteroid that crashed into the moon some 4 billion years ago and created the crater. If that’s the case, the metal would offer an invaluable window into the ancient processes that shaped our solar system’s rocky planets and moons.