Mafic Lunar Mound Formed By Strange Volcanic Process Found On Moon

Posted: Oct 16 2015, 7:12am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 16 2015, 7:30am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Strange Volcanic Formation Found Near Lunar South Pole
Volcanic processes touched off by a massive impact appear to have created Mafic Mound, a strange feature near the moon's south pole. / CREDIT: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
  • Strange Volcanic Structure found near the South Pole of the Moon

A very strange volcanic formation has been found on the southern polar region of the moon. It has been identified and investigations into its origins and nature are taking place.

A huge bulging structure near the south pole of the moon seems more like an extinct volcano. Yet the surreal thing about it is that it is unlike any other structure on the lunar surface. A study of the structure is being carried out by geologists at Brown University.

Termed the Mafic Mound, it has a height of 800 meters. The natural protuberance is 75 km in its span. And it lies at the center of a crater titled the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The structure is said to have been formed by a once-in-a-blue-moon activity of volcanic origins. It was also influenced by a massive object that hit the basin from the realm of outer space. The research on the matter has already been published in a journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

"If the scenarios that we lay out for its formation are correct, it could represent a totally new volcanic process that's never been seen before," said Daniel Moriarty, a Ph.D. student in Brown's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and the study's lead author.

The word “mafic” used in the name of the mound means stones that are replete with minerals such as pyroxene and olivine. Mafic Mound was discovered in the 90s by Carl Pieters. This formation has a contrasting chemical composition from the surrounding rocks on the lunar terrain.

The Mafic Mound is rich in calcium pyroxene. The rocks that lie all around it are on the contrary low in calcium. The odd presence of this structure in the center of things brings up the obvious question that “what is it?” and “did it play a role in the formation of the basin?”…The information gathered from several lunar missions was sifted through and the result was that a few conclusions were reached.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper aboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft lent invaluable evidence that went a long way towards fitting the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle that was Mafic Mound.

Other data gathered from NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter and the GRAIL Mission was helpful too. The Mafic Mound was activated by volcanic eruptions due to meteoric activity. Since after the impact, the material cooled and congealed and it shrank in its dimensions too. And thus the protuberance we see today was like toothpaste being squeezed from a tube.

Thus the mound was formed in all its surrealistic quality. This also explains why there is a presence of special minerals in the mound. The changes that took place on the surface of the moon must have led to the formation of this unique and curious structure somewhere during the march of the centuries. As is to be noted, the solar system has its role in the genesis of the pock-marked surface of the moon after all.

"It's the largest confirmed impact structure in the solar system and has shaped many aspects of the evolution of the Moon," Moriarty said. "So a big topic in lunar science is studying this basin and the effects it had on the geology of the Moon through time."

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