Moon Mystery Solved - Tucson News Now

Moon Mystery Solved

A professor and graduate student of astrophysics at Penn State University believe to have the answer to a 55-year-old mystery, known as the "Lunar Far side Highlands Problem".  The mystery is why the far side of the moon, that we never see from Earth, is not full of seas or lunar maria (dark plains found on the moon) like the nearside. Basically, the nearside appears to have more "damage" to the surface than the far side.

Images from the far side were first captured in 1959, by the soviet spacecraft Luna 3. The images revealed a smoother lunar surface, and we may now know why.

Professor Steinn Sirgudson and grad student Arpita Roy, say it has to do with how the moon was formed.  The consensus of our moons creation is from a glancing, but violent, collision of a mars-sized object and our Earth billions of years ago. After the impact, the Earth and moon were very hot. The moon cooled much quicker, because it's smaller.

Heat from Earth kept the near side hotter for longer, will the far side of the moon cooled quicker. Keep in mind the moon was also about 20 times closer to Earth than it is now. The hot side was still molten and soft, while aluminum and calcium condensed on the far side. Millions of years later, meteoroids would hit the moons surface, and release the basaltic lava that lie beneath. The lava created some of the seas and lunar maria we see today.

The crust on the far side of the moon was much cooler and harder, so today its surface appears flatter.

Photo taken by KOLD viewer, Mark Sagara

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