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Monday, July 25, 2011

Hotspot found on Moon's far side - 25th July 2011

Scientists have found evidence of volcanoes on the far side of the Moon.

The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience is a rare example of volcanism on the lunar surface not associated with asteroid, meteor or comet impact events.

Until now the best known examples of volcanism were on the Moon's near side in a region known as the Procellarum KREEP terrane.

A team of scientists, led by Dr Bradley Jolliff from Washington University in St Louis, used images and other data gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to assess the composition of an unusual region on the far side of the moon called the Compton-Belkovich thorium anomaly.

They focused on an area containing numerous domes, some more than six kilometres high.

The domes featured steeply sloping sides which Jolliff and colleagues interpret as, "volcanic in origin and formed from viscous lava".

"We also observe circular depressions, which we suggest result from caldera collapse or volcanic vents," the researchers write.

The LRO data indicates the rocks are rich in thorium, silica and alkali-feldspar minerals, making them different from the black basalts that make up the lunar mare on the near side.

Rare and unusual

Dr Sarah Maddison, an associate professor of Astrophysics at Swinburne University in Melbourne says such a localised region of volcanism on the lunar far side is unusual.

"Most of the volcanism we see on the Moon is impact related and on the near side, although we don't know why," says Maddison. Read More