According to a new study published earlier this week in the journal Nature, the Procellarum region–the moon‘s biggest basin and the featured area commonly called the “man in the moon” – was probably created not by an impacting asteroid but by a large volcano. A team of researchers from MIT and the Colorado School of Mines were able to create a high-resolution map of the Procellarum region using new information gathered by NASA’s GRAIL mission.
In the process of producing the map they discovered that the area’s border isn’t circular. It is polygonal. It has jagged 120 degree angles that negate the previous theory that the “man in the Moon’ was created by an asteroid impact.
The scientist believe that the sharp angles and edges are actually huge “tension cracks” caused by the crust of the moon cooled following “a volcanic episode.” The say the scarring was left by an upwelling of lava from deep beneath the moon’s surface.
The cracks then acted as “release valves” which permitted magma to surface and then sink down into the basin where it pooled into the numerous smaller depressions there. The researchers say the magma cooled and filled in a lot of the basin and formed the area of “dark spots” commonly nicknamed “the man in the moon.
The investigative group constructed a mathematical model in order to recreate the dynamics of an ancient volcanic plume on the moon. The results of this experiment were identical to the data collected by NASA’s GRAIL mission
Maria Zuber, an MIT geophysicist and principal investigator for the GRAIL mission, stated: “A lot of things in science are really complicated, but I’ve always loved to answer simple questions. How many people have looked up at the moon and wondered what produced the pattern we see — let me tell you, I’ve wanted to solve that one!”
Despite Zuber’s excitement, the scientists admit that proving an ancient volcano’s presence will probably take another manned mission to the moon. Still, while they cannot confirm this new theory concerning a volcano, they remain hopeful.
Clive Neal, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame, concluded: “GRAIL has been a fantastic mission, and this data will be continually used and reinterpreted as we get more data back from the moon. “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this data by a long shot.”
‘Man In The Moon’ Made By Volcano