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Analysis of new images of a curious "hot spot" on the far side of the Moon reveal it to be a small volcanic province created by the upwelling of silicic magma. The unusual location of the province and the surprising composition of the lava that formed it offer tantalizing clues to the Moon's thermal history.
The hot spot is a concentration of a radioactive element thorium sitting between the very large and ancient impact craters Compton and Belkovich that was first detected by Lunar Prospector's gamma-ray spectrometer in 1998. The Compton-Belkovich Thorium Anomaly, as it is called, appears as a bull's-eye when the spectrometer data are projected onto a map, with the highest thorium concentration at its center.
As the magma ocean cooled, Jolliff explains, elements such as thorium were preferentially excluded from crystallizing minerals, forming pockets of KREEP-rich magma sandwiched between the crust and mantle.
Jolliff and his team estimated the age of the moon's rare far side silicate volcanoes to be about 800 million years old. Such an age would extend the volcanic activity of the moon by 200 million years, they said.