Saturday, February 24

The dark side of the Moon was a mystery. Now we know why it’s so different from the face we see


Surely you already know this, but from Earth we only see one side of the Moon. There is no way to see the other, which is why we talk about that far side of the Moon that no human could see until 1959. The Soviet Luna 3 probe did it, and since then we have discovered that this far side is very different from the far side. view. Nobody knew why, but now there is data that reveals why it is so different.

A moon pockmarked with craters. Face to face we know her very well. Human beings have been seeing it —in its different phases— since our origins. Lately we’ve seen it better than ever: space missions have been followed by photos with a lot of megapixels. 400, for example. Not a single detail of that visible face escapes us. The problem is the other. The dark side.

come on, you’re there. The Moon rotates on itself in the same time it orbits around the Earth. Its rotation period is equal to the translation period, so we always see the same face.

That made it impossible to see it, something that we finally solved with the launch of the Soviet Lunik 3 probe, which photographed it for the first time on October 10, 1959. The photo was pretty bad, but since then things have improved and NASA has been able to capture that hidden face in all its extension.

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pockmarked with craters. Unlike the near side, the far side of the Moon is dotted with craters. While the visible side is famous for the lunar “seas” resulting from ancient lava that generated volcanic activity on the surface, the far side has no such markings. Why? Was there only volcanic activity on one half of its surface?

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A gigantic impact. A study published in the journal Science Advances now reveals the reasons. The researchers ran computer simulations to find out what might have happened before that volcanic activity, recreating a massive impact that changed the Moon billions of years ago and created a gigantic crater. It is 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 12 kilometers deep, and is called the Aitken Basin.

Ok, so what? That impact created a huge amount of heat, and the researchers wanted to learn how that heat affected the Moon’s internal dynamics. They found that the heat caused certain chemical elements to be deposited on the far side of the moon but not on the far side. They therefore activated to initiate an era of volcanic activity in that visible face.

The theory makes sense. This theory would also explain something that scientists did not fully understand. Many of the faceside regions contain elements such as potassium and phosphorus and others that produce heat such as thorium and other rare earths collectively called KREEP.

These elements are only present on the visible side, and this discovery would explain why they are not on the hidden side. At the moment it is a theory that must be confirmed with future observations, but it is good to know that we know (or believe we know) a little more about that hidden face.

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