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Scientists Discover Why The Moon Only Has One Face


Moon


Astrophysicists believe that they have figured out why the Moon's Earth-facing nearside, featuring "Man in the Moon," looks remarkably different than its unseen far side, writes Nature World News.
The "Man in the Moon" is made up of massive flat "seas" of basalt that appear dark on the lunar surface.
Astronomers have long thought that these flat regions, called maria, formed when asteroids impacted the Moon.
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The believed that the impacts broke through its crust to release vast lakes of basaltic lava which then welled and cooled on its surface, writes Nature World News.
The study was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
All sides of the Moon feature a number of craters from asteroid impact and early volcanic activity.
"I remember the first time I saw a globe of the Moon as a boy, being struck by how different the farside looks," Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astrophysics, said in a Penn State press release.
"It was all mountains and craters. Where were the maria? It turns out it's been a mystery since the fifties."
The mystery - known as the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem - dates as far back as 1959, when the Russian space program's Luna 3 obtained the first images of the Moon's farside - commonly known as the "dark side", writes Nature World News.
According to a study co-authored by Wright and recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem may finally be solved.
Wright, Steinn Sigurdsson and lead author Arpita Roy believe that the manner in which each side of the Moon cooled determined how vulnerable it was to asteroid impact, writes Nature World News.
"Shortly after the Giant impact, the Earth and the Moon were very hot," Sigurdsson said in a statement, referring to when the Moon formed after a massive astronomical body known Theia collided with Earth to form the Moon.
According to the study, after Theia's impact, the Moon cooled faster than the much larger Earth.
Researchers believe that heat from the still-hot Earth slowed the cooling rate of the Moon's nearside, while its far side continued to cool rapidly, writes Nature World News. 
This difference in cooling rate would have caused elements like aluminum and calcium to condense in the atmosphere of The Moon's far side, eventually forming a firm and thick crust.
The crust on the nearside of the moon would have remained relatively brittle in comparison, writes Nature World News, being more likely to collapse under the impact of asteroids.
According to researchers this explains why maria are found only on the nearside of the moon - as the crust on the farside of the moon was too thick for it to form.
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