- (F. Scholten, DLR. NASA/GSFC/ASU/WUSTL)
According to a recent discovery by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists now have photos showing silicate volcanoes on the far side of the moon.
Silicate volcanoes are a type that do not ooze magma; deeming them “dead” by scientists. Other basaltic or active volcanoes have been discovered on the moon’s surface in the past.
“Most of the volcanic activity on the moon was basaltic,” said primary author Brad Joliff of Washington University to SPACE.com in an email. “Finding other volcanic types is interesting as it shows the geologic complexity and range of processes that operate on the moon, and how the moons volcanism changed with time.”
According to research compiled by the journal Nature Geoscience, the moons far side was not visible from the Earth due to tidal forces between it and the moon, until 1959 when the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 Spacecraft took pictures of the region.
In 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector probe circled the moon’s surface revealing a highly reflective plain lying between two ancient impact craters which is now known as the Compton-Belkovich region.
The silicate rocks and thorium found in this region suggested a more involved type of volcanic activity similar to that which created the moons well-known dark plains of basaltic plains known as “maria”, or “seas.”
But once LRO captured higher resolutions of the region, scientists were able to confirm this kind of volcanic activity, after their spacecraft found a number of domelike features with steeply sloping slides.
According to Joliff, the domes were likely formed by lava which came from within the moon that flowed up through cracks to pool just beneath the moon’s surface, which then pressed out to create them.
He also stated that the silicate volcanoes on the far side of the moon are estimated to be around 800 years old, extending the volcanic activity of the moon by 200 million years.
But despite this newest discovery, NASA’s plans to return to the moon were canceled for 2010 and after according to Wired.