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article imageNASA orbiter finds rare volcano hot spot on far side of the moon

By Andrew Moran     Jul 26, 2011 in Science
Saint Louis - NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has discovered a hot spot of volcanoes on the far side of the moon. Capturing data and images, the LRO revealed rare silicate, now-dead volcanoes and not the visible basaltic one.
The far side of the moon – sometimes misidentified as the dark side of the moon – is not visible to us on Earth, but a new NASA study suggests that there is a lot we are missing.
According to data and photos from NASA’s LRO optical cameras, the far side of the moon is geologically active because it contains a hot spot of rare dormant silicate dome-shaped volcanoes and not the basaltic volcanoes that appear on the moon’s surface, according to a Washington University news release.
“That’s very unusual,” said Washington University planetary scientist, Bradley Jolliff, in an interview with TG Daily. “There are only about a half dozen other features on the Moon that are thought to be silica-rich, because the Moon, unlike the Earth, does not reprocess rock materials in a way that concentrates silica.”
The volcanoes are half a mile to three miles across with steeply sloping slides. It was also discovered that the region of volcanoes contains a concentration of thorium, a radioactive element.
A shot of the Supermoon seen from uptown Toronto.
A shot of the Supermoon seen from uptown Toronto.
“We've known for awhile that the Compton-Belkovich had unusually high thorium content,” said Timothy Glotch, study co-author of Stony Brook University, in an interview with Space.com. “Now we can positively say that thorium is related to these silicic volcano materials.”
This new data will prompt scientists to re-evaluate the moon’s volcanic past, including the age of the volcanic province.
It is noted that lunar volcanism is much different than our planet’s volcanism because the moon is small, cooled quickly and never developed rock-recycling plate tectonics.
NASA’s latest discovery comes as scientists believe they have found the 1967 Lunar Orbiter 2 that snapped the “picture of the century,” which was of the Copernicus crater on the moon, according to the Register. Following the completion of its mission, control commanded the space probe to crash land on the moon’s far side.
More about Volcano, Moon, Darkside moon, Lunar reconnaissance orbiter, NASA
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