Scientists using data from Chinese lunar orbiters have discovered what they think is a mass of granite 30 miles wide deep under the surface of the moon.
On Earth, granite is the result of the cooling of molten lava from a volcano. It could be from a volcano that last erupted 3.5 billion years ago, but it’s still generating heat.
It’s a stunning find because until now granite on the moon was found only in traces within lunar rock brought back to the Earth on the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. It was thought to require Earth-like conditions such as plate tectonics.
The area, between two lunar craters called Compton and Belkovich, is believed to be an extinct volcanic caldera. “We have discovered extra heat coming out of the ground at a location on the moon believed to be a long dead volcano,” said Matthew Siegler, a research professor and research scientist with the Planetary Science Institute and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “We were a bit puzzled when we found it.”