I’ve never been able to see the mythological Man in the Moon. But if someone asked me if I could see the Dark Blotch on the Moon, I would have no choice but to say yes. It’s pretty much the defining feature on an otherwise bright, glowing orb. This Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum), as it’s called, is quite different from anything on the opposite side of the moon, and has long been thought to be the product of a past cataclysmic collision, but without any of the topographical proof needed to back that theory up. Now, thanks to data collected from the Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya/Selene, scientists are fairly certain that this is exactly the case.
Lead study author Ryosuke Nakamura, a planetary scientist for Tsukuba, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, told Space.com that such a collision would have created “3,000-kilometer (1,800-mile) wide magma sea several hundred kilometers in depth.” This explanation was evidenced by a concentration of a low-calcium variety of the pyroxene mineral surrounding Oceanus Procellarum, as well as other large impact craters. Pyroxene of this kind is linked with material excavated from the lunar mantle, and suggests such cataclysmic to be the cause.
Nakamura surmises that future lunar sample-return missions, such as the proposed unmanned probe mission Moonrise, could send back more evidence to confirm these initial findings, which are given in more detail in the journal Natural Geoscience from Oct. 28th.
Perhaps Pink Floyd could retroactively call their most popular album “The Less-Destroyed-From-Meteors Side of the Moon.” After all these years of disaster fear-mongering and Roland Emmerich movies, I still can’t wrap my brain around the devastation a meteor could bring about. 1,800 miles is roughly from San Diego, CA to Montgomery, AL. In just a few seconds, it could wipe out what would take me a day and a half to bitch about driving. And the hole’s depth is about as long as my home state of Louisiana. It’s a humbling and scary thought, and yet, part of me just thinks: pool party!