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Mysterious large mass discovered on Moon bewilders scientists: ‘Whatever it is, wherever it came from’

A large mass of unknown material has been discovered on the largest crater on the Moon and scientists aren’t sure what it is.

According to an April 2019 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers believe the mass could contain metal from an asteroid that crashed into the celestial satellite, which resulted in the aforementioned crater, known as the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” lead author Dr. Peter James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor University, said in a statement.

 

At roughly 1,550 miles in diameter, the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin stretches across approximately one-fourth of the Moon, according to NASA. The Moon’s circumference is roughly 11,000 kilometers.

This false-color graphic shows the topography of the far side of the Moon. The warmer colors indicate high topography and the bluer colors indicate low topography. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue. The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

This false-color graphic shows the topography of the far side of the Moon. The warmer colors indicate high topography and the bluer colors indicate low topography. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue. The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

In addition to being the largest crater on the Moon, the Pole-Aitken basin is also one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system and is thought to be approximately 4 billion years old.

James and his team looked at data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission and the changes in gravity they discovered surprised them.

“When we combined that with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin,” James said. “One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon’s mantle.”

The anomaly – “whatever it is, wherever it came from,” James added – is weighing down the basin floor by more than half a mile. The team of researchers ran computer simulations that show the iron-nickel core of an asteroid could have been placed into the upper mantle of the Moon following impact.

“We did the math and showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact could remain suspended in the Moon’s mantle until the present day, rather than sinking to the Moon’s core,” James noted.

One other possibility for the unexplained mass is that it could be an area where dense oxides compiled following the last stage of lunar magma ocean solidification.

Whatever it is, James said the basin is “one of the best natural laboratories for studying catastrophic impact events, an ancient process that shaped all of the rocky planets and moons we see today.”

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Comet Pan-STARRS at its brightest this weekend!

By Miriam Kramer

Published March 08, 2013

Space.com

  • comet-panstarrs-march-2013

    The progression of comet Pan-STARRS across the night sky in March 2013 is shown in this NASA graphic. (SCIENCE@NASA)

  • comet-pan-starrs-sky-map

    The path of Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) over the next month. (STARRY NIGHT SOFTWARE)

  • comet-pan-starrs-close-up-gingin-observatory

    Close-up of comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. (ASTRONOMY EDUCATION SERVICES/GINGIN OBSERVATORY)

A comet that just made its way into the Northern Hemisphere evening sky should be at its brightest this weekend, but it may be tricky for stargazers to see.

On Sunday (March 10), the Comet Pan-STARRS is expected to make its closest approach to the sun, potentially making the comet shine even more brilliantly when it appears at twilight low in the western sky, weather permitting. But stargazers will need a bit of preparation (not to mention a clear sky) to see the comet.

“There is a catch to viewing Comet Pan-STARRS,” Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NASA’s near-Earth object hunting NEOWISE mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement Thursday (March 7). “This one is not that bright and is going to be low on the western horizon, so you’ll need a relatively unobstructed view to the southwest at twilight and, of course, some good comet-watching weather.”

On Sunday, Comet Pan-STARRS will pass about 28 million miles from the sun during its close approach. The comet made its closest pass with the Earth on Tuesday (March 5) when it flew by at about 102 million miles from the planet. [How to see the comet]

“It will appear in the west at sunset, from around the 8th to the 13th of March 2013, and will be visible to the naked eye up to the end of the month: Comet Pan-STARRS C/2011 L4 will traverse Cetus, Pisces, Pegasus and Andromeda,” Paris Observatory officials wrote in a statement Thursday, as the comet entered the Northern Hemisphere’s evening sky after months of being visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

Comet Pan-STARRS, which has the official designation C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), was discovered in June 2011 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (or PANSTARRS) telescope in Hawaii. The comet made its way into the inner solar system from the Oort cloud — a group of icy bodies orbiting the sun in a region that extends from just beyond the orbit of Neptune out to a distance of 93 trillion miles.

While Pan-STARRS may start dimming after Sunday, that doesn’t mean that comet observers should put away their binoculars yet. On March 12 and 13, the comet will appear close to the moon, possibly even silhouetting it according to SPACE.com stargazing columnist Geoff Gaherty, an astronomer with the Starry Night Education night sky software company.

There are even comet sighting opportunities in April.

On April 3, the comet should be in the same part of the sky as the Andromeda Galaxy. Although the comet won’t still be visible with the naked eye, stargazers with telescopes could still get a nice view of the comet and galaxy, Gaherty explained.

Pan-STARRS has already put on a show for stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere. It is one of several comets in the night sky expected to dazzle observers this year. Last month, amateur astronomers managed to photograph Pan-STARRS and another celestial wanderer — Comet Lemmon — at the same time to document rare photos of two comets together in the night sky.

Later this year, another comet from the Oort Cloud could be the brightest comet to pass by the Earth in a generation. Comet ISON is expected to outshine every comet in recent memory when it makes its closest swing by the sun late November.

Read more:http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/03/08/naked-eye-comet-pan-starrs-at-its-brightest-this-weekend/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2NNIZrGk1

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Asteroid Worth $195 Billion!

Earth-buzzing asteroid worth $195 billion, space miners say

By Mike Wall

Published February 13, 2013

Space.com

  • asteroid-art-130211

    An artist’s conception of the Feb. 15 flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14. (NASA.)

  • asteroid-path-130211

    This graphic shows 2012 DA14’s path past Earth. (NASA.)

The space rock set to give Earth a historically close shave this Friday, Feb. 15, may be worth nearly $200 billion, prospective asteroid miners say.

The 150-foot-wide asteroid 2012 DA14 — which will zoom within 17,200 miles of Earth on Friday, marking the closest approach by such a large space rock that astronomers have ever known about in advance — may harbor $65 billion of recoverable water and $130 billion in metals, say officials with celestial mining firm Deep Space Industries. 

‘While this week’s visitor isn’t going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are.’

– Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson 

That’s just a guess, they stressed, since 2012 DA14’s composition is not well known and its size is an estimate based on the asteroid‘s brightness.

The company has no plans to go after 2012 DA14; the asteroid’s orbit is highly tilted relative to Earth, making it too difficult to chase down. But the space rock’s close flyby serves to illustrate the wealth of asteroid resources just waiting to be extracted and used, Deep Space officials said. [Deep Space Industries’ Asteroid-Mining Vision in Photos]

“While this week’s visitor isn’t going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are, and we want to be ready when they arrive,” Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson said in a statement Tuesday.

Deep Space Industries wants to use asteroid resources to help humanity expand its footprint out into the solar system. The company plans to convert space rock water into rocket fuel, which would be used to top up the tanks of off-Earth satellites and spaceships cheaply and efficiently.

Asteroidal metals such as iron and nickel, for their part, would form the basis of a space-based manufacturing industry that could build spaceships, human habitats and other structures off the planet.

The idea is to dramatically reduce the amount of material that needs to be launched from Earth, since it currently costs at least $10 million to send 1 ton of material to high-Earth orbit, officials said.

“Getting these supplies to serve communications satellites and coming crewed missions to Mars from in-space sources like asteroids is key if we are going to explore and settle space,” Tumlinson said.

Deep Space Industries is just one of two asteroid-mining firms that have revealed their existence and intentions in the past 10 months. The other is Planetary Resources, which has financial backing from billionaires such as Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

Deep Space aims to launch a phalanx of small, robotic prospecting probes called Fireflies in 2015. Sample-return missions to potential targets would occur shortly thereafter, with space mining operations possibly beginning around 2020.

Planetary Resources also hopes its activities open the solar system up for further and more efficient exploration. The company may launch its first low-cost prospecting space telescopes within the next year or so.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/13/earth-buzzing-asteroid-worth-195-billion/?intcmp=features#ixzz2KpTMk900

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