Dark side of the moon reveals huge heat blob that has scientists concerned

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Scientists have discovered an enormous heat blob on the dark side of the moon, which could have profound consequences for lunar research.

The unusual mass of heat is believed to come from a large deposit of granite buried beneath the moon’s surface, which was formed by a volcano similar to those found on Earth.

The heat blob spans 31 miles in total and has a temperature of 10C.

This is considered to be very hot for the moon where the mercury can plummet to bone-chilling lows of -183C at night.

Granite is normally formed on earth after a volcanic eruption and when magma cools into the rock.

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Finding granite on other planets is quite rare and a cause for excitement.

The moon is known for its lava fields and eruptions but never for housing an earth-like volcano.

The Earth-like volcanic activity was discovered beneath the Compton and Belkovich craters on the moon’s far side.

Dr. Matt Siegler, co-lead researcher at the Planetary Science Institute, explained: “What we found was that one of these suspected volcanoes, known as Compton-Belkovich, was absolutely glowing at microwave wavelengths.”

The unexpected discovery has revealed a previously unknown volcanic process on the moon.

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The heat source below the Compton-Belkovich isn’t magma, as one would expect, but radioactive elements stuck in the rocks.

The data unearthed showcases a silicon-rich surface, 20 (12 miles) kilometres wide, believed to be the caldera of an ancient volcano.

This ancient volcano is the most similar to earthly volcanoes found so far.

And the researchers found it using data from the two Chinese lunar orbiters, Chang’E 1 and Chang’E 2.

China’s Chang’E orbiters both carry an instrument for looking at the moon in microwave wavelengths.

Those wavelengths are longer than infrared. The orbiters used the instrument to map the temperature beneath the surface of the moon.

Dr. Siegler continued: “We interpret this heat flux as resulting from a radiogenic-rich granite body below the caldera.”

Dr. Rita Economos, a geochemist, explained that what they discovered was a 50km (31 miles) wide batholith – a volcanic rock that forms when lava rises into the crust but doesn’t erupt onto the surface.

Similar formation examples on Earth include El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite, California.

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