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Scientists Uncover Gigantic Buried Granite Mass on the Moon

Lyon, France: A mysterious mass of granite emitting heat has been discovered beneath the surface of the far side of the Moon by an orbiting satellite. On Earth, granite rocks are common due to the presence of abundant water and tectonic plates, which facilitate the melting and recycling of materials in the planet’s crust. Previous studies, including NASA’s Apollo missions, only found a few grains of granite among the hundreds of kilograms of rocks returned. Additionally, remote sensing studies on the Moon have identified a limited number of small granite or granite-like features.

While Earth benefits from the presence of abundant water and plate tectonics that aid in these processes, they are absent on the Moon. However, small granite samples have still been discovered, although their origin and the scale of the systems they represent remain unknown. The microwave instruments on the uncrewed Chinese lunar spacecraft, Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2, detected this recent discovery. Professor Timothy Glotch and his colleagues from Stony Brook University utilized remote sensing measurements, specifically orbital microwave radiometry and gravity measurements, to detect a large granitic body beneath the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Complex (CBVC).

Unveiling a Vast Granite Deposit Hidden beneath the Moon’s Surface by Scientists

The researchers supplemented the data collected from the orbiters with information from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), as well as older data from the Lunar Prospector, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), Chandrayaan-1, and Apollo missions. “Typically, granites require plate tectonics or water-bearing magmas to form,” explained Professor Glotch. “Here, we report measurements of microwave-wavelengths from an unusually hot geothermal source that can be best explained by the presence of a granitic system with a diameter of approximately 50 kilometers beneath the thorium-rich farside feature known as Compton-Belkovich. The only explanation for such high heat production is a large body of granite, a rock that forms when the unerupted lava below a volcano cools.”

Scientists Uncover Gigantic Buried Granite Mass on the Moon

Matthew Siegler, the lead author of the study, stated, “By using instruments on the Chinese Chang’e 1 and 2 orbiters, which examine microwave wavelengths longer than infrared, we have been able to map temperatures beneath the lunar surface. Although the Moon contains small amounts of water in its interior, it has never undergone plate tectonics.” The technique of passive microwave radiometry, which is sensitive to the integrated thermal gradient at various depths, allowed scientists to peer deeper beneath the Moon’s surface, measuring subsurface temperatures from approximately 0.3 meters to 5.6 meters.

Groundbreaking Find: Scientists Detect Enormous Granite Mass Buried on the Moon

Granite possesses higher concentrations of radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium compared to other rocks in the lunar crust, which explains the observed heating at the lunar surface. The use of microwave radiometry with its longer wavelengths enables scientists to investigate greater depths below the surface, thereby measuring the physical temperature of the subsurface. “Therefore, the discovery of the granitic complex or batholith beneath the CBVC indicates the existence of an, as yet, unknown process responsible for the formation of granite.”

The microwave instruments on Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 measured antenna temperatures ranging from 3 to 37 gigahertz, enabling the calculation of a peak heat flux of approximately 180 milliwatts per square meter. This value is about 20 times higher than that of the average lunar highlands. Dr. Siegler will present this groundbreaking work for the first time at the Goldschmidt Conference in Lyon, France on July 12th. The research paper, on which this work is based, is available online in the peer-reviewed journal Nature (see below).

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