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The two sides of the Earth’s moon are as dissimilar as night and day. One side features craters, pockmarks to the surface that in some cultures have led to the rise of the phrase 'man on the moon'. The other side features a completely different topography, with a more intense crust and much higher elevations. There could be a reason for the difference in topography, however, and a group of Japanese scientists think the reason involves a giant asteroid.
A group of scientists from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba recently analyzed minerals and the way they are distributed across the moon, as well as light reflection data that was picked up by the Kaguya moon mission. After analyzing the data, the scientists noticed low-calcium pyroxene, an element that does not mean much to most of us, but was likely formed when moon rock melted post-impact.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the National Institute group believes a giant asteroid hit the moon around 3.9 billion years ago. The asteroid they think crashed into the moon would have been gargantuan, mostly likely 300 kilometers—or 186 miles--in diameter. The impact would have been a spectacle that certainly caused some damage, and left the face of the man in the moon in its wake.
Though a giant asteroid is what the scientists are hypothesizing occurred, the many years since impact, as well as smaller asteroid hits, have made it difficult to tell for sure exactly what happened. Which is good, because I think it’s a little better when there is an aura of mystery surrounding the man in the moon. You can check out more in the most recent publication of Nature Geoscience.