Society

55 Year-Old Mystery of Moon’s Dark Side Finally Solved

| by Paul Brown

In 1959, Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first ever images of the dark side of the moon back to Earth. Because of the moon’s orbital patterns, the same side faces Earth at all times, so observers from Earth can never see the far side (otherwise known as the “dark” side) of the moon. 

Once scientists had access to these images, it was discovered that the dark areas on the moon known as maria (or more colloquially known as “the man in the moon” as a collective) are unique to the side of the moon that faces the Earth. 

The official name of this conundrum is the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem, and for 55 years, scientists had no idea why this was the case. Now, however, a group of researchers at Penn State University in Pennsylvania think they have solved the puzzle.

The Blaze has printed an official statement from the team of researchers who made the discovery. “Since the accreting Moon rapidly achieved synchronous rotation, a surface and atmospheric thermal gradient was imposed by the proximity of the hot, post-giant impact Earth. This gradient guided condensation of atmospheric and accreting material, preferentially depositing crust-forming refractories on the cooler far side, resulting in a primordial bulk chemical inhomogeneity that seeded the crustal asymmetry,” said the authors.

In other words, scientists now believe that the surface of the side of the moon that permanently faces Earth has been affected by heat radiating from the Earth. These scientists contend that, while the Earth was still molten and extremely hot, the side of the moon that faces it was slightly distorted, creating the textures we now see as the man in the moon.

While it is known that asteroids helped to form the craters on the near side of the moon, it is now understood that these same meteors likely had little effect on the cooler, more hardened far side of the moon.

According to psu.edu, “When meteoroids struck the farside of the moon, in most cases the crust was too thick and no magmatic basalt welled up, creating the dark side of the moon with valleys, craters and highlands, but almost no maria.”