Volcano found on the Moon’s farside

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/carousel/ngeo1212-f1.jpghttp://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/carousel/ngeo1212-f4.jpg

Non-mare silicic volcanism on the lunar farside at Compton–Belkovich

Bradley L. Jolliff,Sandra A. Wiseman,Samuel J. Lawrence,Thanh N. Tran,Mark S. Robinson,Hiroyuki Sato,B. Ray Hawke,Frank Scholten,Jürgen Oberst,Harald Hiesinger, Carolyn H. van der Bogert,Benjamin T. Greenhagen,Timothy D. Glotch& David A. Paige Nature Geoscience (2011) doi:10.1038/ngeo1212

Abstract

Non-basaltic volcanism is rare on the Moon. The best known examples occur on the lunar nearside in the compositionally evolved Procellarum KREEP terrane. However, there is an isolated thorium-rich area—the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly—on the lunar farside for which the origin is enigmatic.

Here we use images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Cameras, digital terrain models and spectral data from the Diviner lunar radiometer to assess the morphology and composition of this region. We identify a central feature, 25 by 35 km across, that is characterized by elevated topography and relatively high reflectance. The topography includes a series of domes that range from less than 1 km to more than 6 km across, some with steeply sloping sides. We interpret these as volcanic domes formed from viscous lava. We also observe arcuate to irregular circular depressions, which we suggest result from collapse associated with volcanism. We find that the volcanic feature is also enriched in silica or alkali-feldspar, indicative of compositionally evolved, rhyolitic volcanic materials. We suggest that the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly represents a rare occurrence of non-basaltic volcanism on the lunar farside. We conclude that compositionally evolved volcanism did occur far removed from the Procellarum KREEP terrane.

PDF files

Supplementary Information (1.90MB)
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51 Responses to Volcano found on the Moon’s farside

  1. Brian H says:

    Yeah, but did it emit CO2?

  2. Ric Werme says:

    Oh, not an active volcano. Still, it would be nice if we could go there. These days, we can’t even launch an astronaut into Low Earth Orbit, much less land on the Moon.

  3. Ray says:

    Are we a little low on news? It’s an interesting piece of information but it would have been important news if that volcano was active…

    What about the Australian physicist Professor Brian J O’Brien?
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/a_professor_speaks_out_money_has_corrupted_our_global_warming_debate

    Or the profit WWF has made by renting their logo?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/25/wwf-accused-sustainable-timber-scheme

    … now this is news!!!

  4. A. Mole says:

    I bet the hot springs are nice.

  5. Tom T says:

    A.Mole: I’m sure if the lack of oxygen doesn’t bother you.

  6. Jeff Mitchell says:

    I was kind of hoping we’d get an update on the predictions for sun cycle 24, comparing the current chart at http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/f10.gif with their predictions at the beginning of 2007 or 2008.

    What would really be cool is if there were an active volcano on the moon of any kind. On the moon global warming isn’t affected by volcanos or CO2. Its just the sun, every other week…

  7. Greg from Spokane, Wa says:

    A. Mole says:
    July 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I bet the hot springs are nice.
    ==================
    I’ll bet the hot springs are long since frozen, that’s why the aliens left. :)

  8. Doug Proctor says:

    A silicic/alkalic feldspar, rhyolitic volcano within a low-silicic, basaltic terrain …. somehow you have a compositionally different magma source within a huge, compositionally consistent mantle area. Shows the science of geology is also not “settled” and what we find, not “certain”.

    Models are useful as highway maps are useful to plan your trip. They don’t tell you what you will find, though, just where it is you might start looking.

  9. jack mosevich says:

    Ray: WUWT is a blog for people interested in all aspects of Science.So lighten up.
    Keep the interesting stories coming Anthony and staff.

  10. Mr Lynn says:

    I don’t know what the significance of this ancient volcanism is, but it’s interesting that there is a “thorium-rich area” on the far side of the Moon. Since there’s plenty on Earth, I don’t suppose that it’s worth going to mine. But we should keep looking; maybe we’ll find something more valuable. That’s really all we need to rejuvenate interest in space travel—a gold rush!

    /Mr Lynn

  11. richard verney says:

    @jack mosevich says:July 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    Agreed. It is good to see a range of articles, and always fascinating to read an article on space topics, the solar system, the universe etc. Keep on posting these stories.

  12. dp says:

    I don’t mean to pile on, but one of the reasons I enjoy this blog is the broader scope of it. Climate is the main draw but as the subheader on the top of the pages states, many things are on topic here. Even perfectly whimsical things such as Josh’s cartoons. I hope it remains so.

    And I’m one of those who finds lunar discoveries very interesting.

  13. JamesS says:

    Doug Proctor says:
    July 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    A silicic/alkalic feldspar, rhyolitic volcano within a low-silicic, basaltic terrain …. somehow you have a compositionally different magma source within a huge, compositionally consistent mantle area. Shows the science of geology is also not “settled” and what we find, not “certain”.

    I suppose the big “if” here is “if” this is really a volcano in the normal sense of the word, and not some impact event that managed to mimic the look of a volcano. There’s a “we interpret” and “we suggest” in there that leaves a lot of wiggle room.

    Hard to do geology from 238,000 miles away.

  14. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    However, there is an isolated thorium-rich area—the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly—on the lunar farside for which the origin is enigmatic.

    Wow. We’ve already found more water than was originally thought to be on the Moon. Have we now found a good source of fission reactor fuel? How high is the thorium concentration and how difficult will it be to extract?

    And why haven’t we colonized the Moon yet? We were supposed to have a permanent base there well over 12 years ago.

  15. “However, there is an isolated thorium-rich area—the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly—on the lunar farside for which the origin is enigmatic. ”

    Perhaps a deliberately buried monolith to be found nearby???

  16. rbateman says:

    The sad part is that we are not going there to check it out. Hey, only a 1/4 million miles away.

  17. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    It’s a fake from Hollywood.

    ;^)

  18. Doug in Seattle says:

    Doug Proctor says:
    July 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    A silicic/alkalic feldspar, rhyolitic volcano within a low-silicic, basaltic terrain …. somehow you have a compositionally different magma source within a huge, compositionally consistent mantle area. Shows the science of geology is also not “settled” and what we find, not “certain”.

    Not settled indeed. On earth siliceous volcanism is associated with melting of basaltic crust in the presence of H2O in subduction zones. Wonder where the H2O came from.

  19. Tom in Texas says:

    “Perhaps a deliberately buried monolith to be found nearby???”

    I’d like to see 2001 in 3D.

  20. Leon Brozyna says:

    Thank you for the precision in the headline.

    I never realized how much it annoyed me to see that misnomer, the darkside of the moon. Farside is so much better.

  21. rbateman says:

    Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    July 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    No matter, the Chinese are going there and we aren’t invited.

  22. Graeme says:

    Man made volcano on Moon emits plume that will destroy life on earth – environmental catastrophy awaits…

    Recent scientific modelling has shown that the boot prints of apollo astronauts have upset the delicate geological formations of the moon, These man made “luna footprints” have resulted after a nearly 40 year lag in the eruption of a massive volcano on the far side of the moon. The plume is expected to grow so large that it will obscure the moon in a distinct haze before this new lunar smog begins it’s journey to earth where it will interact with man made carbon pollution to accelerate man made global warming…

    Government Policy advisors have predicted that a new regime of global taxation of energy use must be immediately implemented if we are to manage this new crisis…

    The UN now demands new powers to implement the lunar smog tax and to staff a new global organsisation that will have three main tasks.

    1. To save the planet from man made lunar smog.
    2. to manage the collection, and application of funds from the lunar smog tax, and
    3. To provide educational and media materials to instruct everyone about this new threat and the brave work done by the extremely intelligent and skilled scientists of the UN.

    Bravo – is all that I can say.

  23. Bruce says:

    Thorium is not really worth anything. Many mineral sands miners presently throw away their monazite concentrate despite it containing 5-10% ThO2.

    When I say ‘throw away’ I mean they return it to the original sand stratum in an environmentally controlled and responsible manner of course.

  24. Brian H says:

    Graeme;
    Semi-cute. Tries too hard, tho’.

    And the reason the authors didn’t specify “extinct” volcano is that they were writing for people who would have been insulted at the inference they were uneducated enough to think the authors were stupid enough to imagine it would have been a live one. So they weren’t writing for you (or others who think the “extinct ” observation is clever).

  25. Pete H says:

    Leon Brozyna says:
    July 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm
    “I never realized how much it annoyed me to see that misnomer, the darkside of the moon.”

    If it was good enough for Pink Floyd then its good enough for me! ;-)

  26. sandyinderby says:

    I was reminded about Oklo when reading this story.

    http://geology.about.com/od/geophysics/a/aaoklo.htm

  27. Myrrh says:

    Mr Lynn says:
    July 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t know what the significance of this ancient volcanism is, but it’s interesting that there is a “thorium-rich area” on the far side of the Moon. Since there’s plenty on Earth, I don’t suppose that it’s worth going to mine. But we should keep looking; maybe we’ll find something more valuable. That’s really all we need to rejuvenate interest in space travel—a gold rush!

    Race already on – between America and Russia to mine for Helium 3

    From the 2004 announcement
    http://www.hindu.com/2004/01/26/stories/2004012600601500.htm

    2006
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/551/1
    http://www.wired.com/science/space/news/2006/12/72276

    Seems to have petered out since then..?

  28. Myrrh says:

    Looks like this is what started it:

    “Using Luna Helium-3 to Generate Nuclear Power Without the Production of Nuclear Waste” G.L. Kulcinski Fusion Technology Institute University of Wisconsin-Madison http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/presentations/glk_isdc.pdf

    Maybe not, here’s a map from 1998 of Helium -3 on the Moon “developed by scientists in Arizona and Hawaii”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/226053.stm

    With China coming in too there’s speculation that the race is still on: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/10/china-launches-second-moon-mission-is-mining-helium-3-an-ultimate-goal.html

    You too can play…: http://www.yourdiscovery.com/games/helium3/

  29. Matt says:

    Mis-lead commenters mis-lead by mis-leading article… err, what was I gonna say?

    The article’s headline gives the impression we are talking active volcano here, as you can see in the comments, and that is what I thought as well. Now readig the PDF of course shows nothing like that. In fact, if there was an active volcano on the moon, you wouldn’t read about it here first – it would be on breakfast TV and everywhere.

  30. Tony says:

    Is it just me, or does it look like there’s a nasty boil on the backside of the mooning moon?.

  31. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    Should be a welcome relief, taking some of the pressure from ‘Loehle & Scafetta’ discovery on the other thread.

  32. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    M.A.Vukcevic said on July 26, 2011 at 3:42 am:

    Should be a welcome relief, taking some of the pressure from ‘Loehle & Scafetta’ discovery on the other thread.

    What, you need something different to talk about? This popped up about the LHC and the search for the Higgs boson:

    Existence of God particle to be decided by next year

    It had previously been thought to have a mass between 114 and 185GeV (gigaelectronvolts), as theories and models mean “we know everything about it, except if it exists”.

    Prof Heuer said recent experiments meant the range from 150 to 200GeV has now been ruled out as a possible “hiding place” for the Higgs.

    It narrows down the search, probably to within the 115 to 140GeV range.

    “If we find this Higgs then this thing holds together and the Standard Model is valid. If we do not find this low-mass Higgs, that means the Standard Model is no longer valid as we know it today.”

    However Prof Heuer said even disproving the Higgs’s existence would be a “breakthrough”, as the question would still be settled and a new search would be on to explain the fundamentals of the physical world.

    Did you catch the tone of the last part? If the LHC cannot find the Higgs boson, then it doesn’t exist, therefore the Standard Model must be scrapped.

    What sort of institutionalized arrogance can declare “If we can’t find it, then no one can find it, and it can’t possibly exist”? Are they really that certain their method is so absolutely flawless that it must be able to detect the particle if it exists?

  33. Tom_R says:

    >> kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    July 26, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Did you catch the tone of the last part? If the LHC cannot find the Higgs boson, then it doesn’t exist, therefore the Standard Model must be scrapped.

    What sort of institutionalized arrogance can declare “If we can’t find it, then no one can find it, and it can’t possibly exist”? Are they really that certain their method is so absolutely flawless that it must be able to detect the particle if it exists? <<

    I look at that from a different viewpoint. At least particle physicists are still willing to throw out a disproved theory, unlike climate 'scientists' who are quick to claim any observation fits with CAGW.

  34. Olen says:

    Pictures from the far side of anything out there are interesting as we morph into a preindustrial economy and China progresses with our technology, equipment and procedures.

  35. Mr Lynn says:

    Myrrh says:
    July 26, 2011 at 2:12 am
    July 26, 2011 at 2:28 am
    July 26, 2011 at 3:01 am
    . . . Ah, could be all nonsense, this writer debunks the lot: http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/lunar/teams/team-phoenicia/blog/guest-post-helium-3-lunar-chimera-by-james-nicoll

    Ah yes, Helium-3. First read about it in John Lewis’s terrific Mining The Sky: Untold Riches From The Asteroids, Comets, And Planets (1997). 3He might not turn out to be the pot of gold in the sky (without working fusion reactors, who can tell?). But there’s plenty of other stuff out there. All we need is a cheap way to get to LEO, and—as it were—the sky’s the limit!

    /Mr Lynn

  36. John G(UK) says:

    O/T I’m having trouble with Windows Internet Explorer for two days now saying that I cannot be connected to WUWT. Connection via Firefox on the same computer is immediate. Has anyone else suffered this?

  37. TXRed says:

    Could the volcanism have come from crustal damage caused by the impact of the cow? We all know that the cow flew over the moon but I’ve never heard (herd?) if she returned. If not . . .

    Slightly more seriously, I enjoy articles such as this and they provide a nice pause from the all-too-usual AGW trumps of dooooooom.

  38. the_Butcher says:

    And? It’s not like we’ll ever know anyway. Unless China does something.

    There’s no need to send humans on the Moon, just send robots in packs and create a base for mining until Humans can step foot again.

  39. Jason Calley says:

    @ Brian H. “And the reason the authors didn’t specify “extinct” volcano is that they were writing for people who would have been insulted at the inference they were uneducated enough to think the authors were stupid enough to imagine it would have been a live one. So they weren’t writing for you (or others who think the “extinct ” observation is clever).”

    Hmmmm… you may be coming on just a little too strong. The fact is, conventional theories of lunar structure make it very unlikely that there are active lunar volcanoes — but conventional theories are far from certain. For example, the crater Aristachus has been the subject of numerous (hundreds over the last few centuries) reports of odd lights, unusual foggy patches, and now (since the development of space craft) of measurements of higher than normal radon out gassing. Many people over the years have seen the reports as evidence for current sporadic volcanic activity. In addition, NASA researchers such as John O’keffe have advanced research supporting the idea that tektites may be remnants of lunar high velocity hydrogen volcanic eruptions. Since some tektites are less than a million years old, one could reasonably think that a lunar origin for them would support at least the possibility of current volcanoes there.

    Anyway, I would certainly agree that you are probably right about there being no volcanoes on the moon — but it is demonstrably not true that only the uneducated or stupid would consider the possibility.

  40. Jeff Carlson says:

    just an old alien robot impact sight … nothing to worry about …

  41. Eimear says:

    I love the science stories here, especially space related, as we learn about our planet from studying other planets and moons, and it saves me from going to universetoday.com which I dislike because you can’t question AGW. Carl Sagan thought me as a child to be skeptical and to question everything.

  42. John A says:

    It looks like a fascinating article that is once again behind a paywall. Has anyone got a copy I could take a look at?

  43. k winterkorn says:

    To Leon Brozyna: The “far” side of the moon is also the “dark” side: The farside does get its equal
    share of sunlight each lunar day, but it never gets earthlight, which is far more intense than
    moonlight as seen on Earth.
    During the lunar night the farside is truly in the dark, getting only the cold light of the distant stars.
    The near side is never dark (always getting either sunlight or earthlight or both—-exceptions limited to the occasional eclipse of the sun by the Earth.).
    So “Darkside of the Moon” is not truly a misnomer.
    :)

  44. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    John G(UK) said on July 26, 2011 at 8:30 am:

    O/T I’m having trouble with Windows Internet Explorer for two days now saying that I cannot be connected to WUWT. Connection via Firefox on the same computer is immediate. Has anyone else suffered this?

    Suggested corrective action: purge IE cookies and cache.

    Last week WUWT wasn’t loading for me either, on my Firefox-based browser (Iceweasel for Debian Linux). But another browser was loading WUWT. That indicated the first browser itself had the problem. When individual browsers stop working for certain sites, common causes are bad cookies or a bad copy of something in the cache. I purged all the cookies and the cache (disk and memory) of that browser, WUWT loaded again.

    Try that with your Windoze Internet Explorer (acronym WIE, which is German for “HOW?”) see if it works.

  45. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Tom_R on July 26, 2011 at 6:30 am:

    I look at that from a different viewpoint. At least particle physicists are still willing to throw out a disproved theory, unlike climate ‘scientists’ who are quick to claim any observation fits with CAGW.

    I see the problem as not being willing enough. As I see science being ideally done, failure to confirm by observation what theory says must be there results in a two-prong attack: A) Development of alternate theory that accounts for current observations, and B) Development of improved detection methods. After that it’s a horse race, the new theory works better and is adopted, or the observation that confirms the original theory is finally made. What has apparently been decided is the current detection method is the best that will ever be available, and only after they’ve ridden it to death without achieving their goal will they consider changing horses. Thus it does not seem scientific at all.

    Of course with particle physics, where currently one can spend most of a career championing for and awaiting the construction of the next humongous multi-billion dollar “detection system” before being able to conduct an experiment where you try to make a certain observation, such myopia may be considered beneficial for advancing the science. Look what happened with the LHC, it had a hiccup when warming up that caused it to trash itself, so the researchers just hunkered down to wait for a few years until the repairs got done.

    Oh well, guess it depends what one considers science these days, YMMV.

  46. Brian H says:

    Jason;
    Thanks, though I was fairly sure molten lava is not part of the speculative interior picture! Radon outgassing, etc., doesn’t imply anything other than radioactive deposits.

  47. Jason Calley says:

    Hey Brian, you may very well be right, and if there were only the radon excesses to go by, I would bet money that you were right…. but the large number of observer reports of glowing gases, fogs, etc., around the crater is enough to make me wonder. Aristarchus has some of the largest pyroclastic glass fields known on the Moon, but they are — we think! — ancient. So what are the odd lights that have been reported? I don’t know. I wish we had more data.

    This is kind of like the old saying of “When you hear hoof-beats, think horses, not zebras.” In this case we have a handful of reports that say “Yeah, I heard the hoof-beats, and when I looked, I saw a bunch of horses, but there was this one, back in the pack, and I just SWEAR he looked like he had some odd stripes on him!”

    I love that science finds so many answers, but the mysteries are such great fun! :)

  48. wayne Job says:

    KAKADA[KD Knoebel],
    The seekers of the god particle and the standard model have been chasing fairies for almost a century. When experiments do not work or the maths does not equate they invent imaginary friends. These can be imaginary particles or dark matter, or when that does not equate dark energy. odd that the simple solutions that work are beyond their ken. Scientists with answers are pilloried such as those with alternate views and evidence against the AGW team. Time however is on the side of truth, as all things in our amazing universe are. The CERN big bang will end in a whimper.

  49. hswisemanan says:

    RE: Pink Floyd DSM–

    The muffled conversation at the end of the album…..”There is no dark side of the moon, Actually it is all dark.” The moon is a black body, even Pink Floyd knew that.

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