Moon’s farside hints at violent volcanic explosions

moon map of thorium

A map of the amount of thorium in different regions of the moon show that the element is concentrated mainly on the moon's nearside. But a tiny hot spot called the Compton-Belkovich region (labeled C-B) also exists on the farside of the moon and could have once harbored explosive silica volcanoes.


The farside of the moon may have had some extremely explosive volcanic eruptions hundreds of millions of years ago. 

In 2011, scientists identified rare, silica volcanoes in a highly reflective plain called the Compton-Belkovich region. A reanalysis of thorium in that region shows that the element spreads 300 kilometers farther east than originally thought, suggesting that the silica volcanoes exploded violently, shooting rock and gas across that area of the moon. The findings, reported in a paper submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research and posted September 3 on, appear to be the first evidence of vigorous, explosive silica volcanism on the moon.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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