What Is Hidden on the Dark Side of the Moon?

The moon.
I don't know if you've noticed, but when you look up at the full Moon, the pattern on the Moon is always the same. (Image: via NASA)

Today we’re going to talk about the dark side of the Moon.

Dark side of the Moon

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when you look up at the full Moon, the pattern on the Moon is always the same, no matter if it’s spring, summer, autumn, or winter. That’s because the Moon orbits Earth once every 27.3 days and spins on its axis once every 27.3 days too. This means that although the Moon is rotating, only one side is ever facing the Earth. So what’s the back of it like?

At the beginning of the movie Transformers 3, the spaceship with the Autobots’ core secrets crashes head-on into the back of the Moon where it is found by Armstrong, who has just landed on the Moon, and returns to America with the core secrets. It’s a conspiracy theory, but also a novelty, and it more or less redeems Transformers 2 from its decline at the box office for director Michael Bay.

So why can’t we see the back of the Moon? According to scientists, it’s because the Moon is “tidally locked,” that is, it takes the same amount of time to make one rotation as it does to make one revolution around the Earth. Simply put, the Moon and the Earth are synchronized, so that the Moon is always “half hidden.” We can only see 51 percent of the Moon from Earth. The other 49 percent is always invisible. As a satellite, the Moon’s rotation period coincides with that of its home planet, the Earth.

These mathematically rigorous “coincidences” are so well designed. There are also other “coincidences”. When things are calculated to perfection, it makes one wonder if it is really the work of nature or not.

Composite image of the Earth and Moon.
The mathematically rigorous ‘coincidences’ regarding the Moon are so well designed. (Image: Dmytro Tolokonov via Dreamstime)

The first glimpse of the real thing

The back side of the Moon is often called the dark side. Not because it is really dark. The light from the sun can reach the back of the Moon, especially when it is turned toward the Sun. That is why astronomers generally call the back side of the Moon the far side. The meaning of the dark side is twofold. One is that when a spacecraft travels to this side — the far side — radio contact with the Earth is blocked. The other is that conspiracy is involved.

In 1959, the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 probe circled the Moon for the first time and took pictures of the back of the Moon. When people zoomed in on the pictures, they noticed something peculiar: There was something resembling a square building in the pictures. This aroused people’s interest and imagination.

Could it be that there was life outside the Earth stationed on the back of the Moon? There was no way to get a clearer picture because of the low pixel count at the time, but it was already quite a piece of news and caused imaginations to run wild. Some said it was an alien base. Others said it was an alien spacecraft. All sorts of things were said and gave rise to various science fiction novels such as Luna New Moon. This was probably the source of the story of Transformers 3, and from there the dark side of the Moon became widely known. 

It was 1968 when America’s Apollo 8 orbited around the Moon. Astronauts finally saw the dark side of the Moon for the first time with the naked eye. All expectations were instantly dashed, as it was full of large and small craters like a pockmarked face. William Anders, the astronaut at the time, said in disbelief: “Oh my God! Looks like a sand pile my kids have been playing in for a long time. It’s all beat up — no definition — just a lot of bumps and holes.”

The dark side of the moon.
The dark side of the Moon is filled with large and small craters, like a pockmarked face. (Image: Sergio Calleja via Flickr)

With the distant view, no one actually saw any alien bases for the moment. However, another question that arose was: Why is there such a big difference between the front and back views of the Moon? There are dark areas on the front of the Moon that we call “lunar seas.” Of course, there is no water on the Moon. It is only that early astronomers thought the dark patches looked like seas. These are lowlands, and the rocks on these lowlands have a low reflectivity of sunlight, hence looking like dark patches from Earth.

In general, the front side of the Moon, that is, the side facing the Earth, is relatively smooth, but the back side is like a pockmarked face or a messy chicken nest with valleys, craters, highlands, and no lunar seas. The two hemispheres of the Moon have very different landscapes, a phenomenon that is not found on any of the planets in the solar system. We will offer an explanation later, so keep on reading.

The incomprehensible moonquake: a giant hollow in the Moon?

A landmark event happened in July 1969. The Apollo 11 manned spacecraft landed on the Moon, and astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon’s surface for the first time for humans, uttering the famous words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The pride of the audience sitting in front of televisions was at its peak.

Four months after the successful return of Apollo 11, NASA launched Apollo 12. Apollo 12 was supposed to be a backup for 11 in case 11 failed its mission. Since 11 had succeeded and 12 was available, NASA thought why not send it to the Moon as well? The launch of the backup led to something completely unexpected.

Astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. and Alan Lavern Bean became the third and fourth people to go to the Moon. However, since the mission was not televised this time, they received far less attention than the first man, Armstrong, but that didn’t stop the two astronauts from spending a bit over a day on the Moon before returning.

Apollo 15 lunar module and rover on the surface of the moon.
Apollo missions used a lunar module to land on the Moon. (Image: via NASA)

This time, it was on the lunar module that things went wrong. Let us first explain how the Apollo Moon landing was carried out. It was not a spacecraft that landed directly on the lunar surface, but a main spacecraft with a small lunar module, which flew to the Moon’s orbit and then launched the module to land on the lunar surface. The astronauts then exited the module, moonwalked, collected samples, and returned to the spacecraft in the module after the mission was complete, and would then return to Earth. The lunar module is the equivalent of a small sampan on a large ship used by the crew for temporary landings in the absence of a port.

Nevertheless, the module became a liability on the way back because it was just adding weight and using up fuel, so the capsule was abandoned before the return trip. When Apollo 12 performed the abandonment, the capsule was thrown out, and the moment it hit the surface of the Moon, guess what? The Moon vibrated like a bell. There was a seismometer installed on the module that showed that the Moon’s surface was vibrating in a moonquake, and the shaking lasted for almost an hour before it stopped.

This left the astronauts dumbfounded. It is like when we take a hammer to hit a metal ball, if it is a solid sphere, the ringing and vibrations will be both brief and faint. Can it be that the surface of the Moon is metal and the middle is hollow? If the Moon is hollow, then it is probably not a naturally made object.

Astronauts in the Apollo Lunar Module Mission Simulator at the Kennedy Space Center.
Astronauts were dumbfounded when the moon started vibrating like a bell after the impact of the abandoned space capsule. (Image: via NASA)

Apollo 13 was launched immediately afterward. The U.S. government invested a total of US$27 billion in the Apollo program, equivalent to over US$200 billion today. Up to the end of 1972, there were a total of six successful Moon landings. Apollo 13 did not land on the Moon because of a malfunction, but it unintentionally confirmed the existence of the moonquake once again.

When the crew was about to return, they threw an object of greater mass at the Moon, bigger than the first lunar module, and this time it was not a “ding” but a “dang.” There was a gong-like vibration on the surface of the Moon, which lasted for about three hours. By this time, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were highly interested in the Moon. From time to time, probes from both countries would go to the Moon and bring back samples of rocks for study. Despite this, the Moon remains a great mystery to mankind. 

New findings bring new questions 

Let’s now turn the time to the end of 2020. Something even more strange happened. The Chinese probe Chang’e 5 was launched to the Moon. It encountered a strange rock that looked like a smooth conical pillar. NASA researcher Dr. Daniel P. Moriarty was puzzled, saying that it would take time as well as repeated impacts, pressure from thermal cycling, and other forms of weathering for such a smooth column to form naturally on the Moon’s surface. Only all these forces together could have made such a shape possible. The problem is that the rock is geologically very young and would not have weathered to this state.

An article titled Age and Composition of Young Basalts on the Moon, Measured from Samples Returned by Chang’e-5 was published in Science magazine on 7 October 2021. The title sounds complicated, but the content of the article is quite easy to understand. It is about samples of young basalts from the trip of Chang’e 5. The rocks are roughly 2 billion years old geologically. The sampling site is a lunar sea called Oceanus Procellarum, which is more than 4 million square kilometers, an area larger than India. The rocks look like basaltic rocks formed by volcanic eruptions.

The main point is that they are almost a billion years younger than the previous rock samples taken by Apollo. Scientists find this strange because it doesn’t make sense that the volcanic rocks are so young according to the current geological timeline of the Moon.

Artist's concept of Apollo 13 astronauts taking a moonwalk with the lunar module in the background.
Rock samples returned by the Chinese probe Chang’e 5 are almost a billion years younger than the previous rock samples taken by Apollo astronauts. (Image: via NASA)

One of the authors of the article argues that according to the mainstream view, the Moon’s geological history evolved to the point where it began to cool 2 billion years ago, and the amount of magma from volcanic eruptions should have declined rapidly. If so, what activated volcanic activity on the Moon at the time of the formation of Oceanus Procellarum? This is a brain-burning question.

One possibility is that uranium, thori, and kali, the residual radioactive materials in the Moon’s interior, provided the necessary heat to activate the lunar volcanoes at this point in time. Nevertheless, a puzzling fact is that the Chang’e 5 samples don’t show any significant presence of these radioactive elements. The author can’t quite figure it out and considers it a mystery.

Another author of the article offers another explanation, suggesting that the tidal pull of the Earth’s gravity may have given the Moon a surge of heat that caused its volcanoes to erupt again, and as the Moon was half the distance from the Earth 2 billion years ago, the pull effect could have been much greater at the time. The flaw in this explanation is also obvious because if such a tidal pull existed, it would have had a global effect, affecting the entire surface of the Moon and not producing heating only at Oceanus Procellarum. Hence, this explanation does not make sense either.

If contemporary mainstream astrophysics is not yet able to offer convincing explanations for these phenomena, why don’t we change our thinking and see what other interpretations say?

Other possibilities: an artificial Moon?

Over the years, there have been many theories about where the Moon came from. However, the number of anomalous features on the Moon, such as what we already mentioned, has puzzled scientists. The Moon is a quarter the size of Earth and no other planet has a Moon with such a proportionate size as ours. When Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they had trouble drilling into it; crater depths were strangely uniform between the smaller and larger craters, which is quite strange because if these were formed by meteors and asteroids, there should be a certain proportion between their depth and width. Further, no theories have been fully accepted about how the Moon ended up orbiting our planet. 

Artist's rendering of the moon being transported into a futuristic alien tunnel.
One theory is that the Moon may actually be artificial. (Image: Elen33 via Dreamstime)

Some theories have claimed that the Moon is actually artificial. If that was the case, it would then be able to explain the confusion over these young lunar rocks — the rocks were just building materials, probably collected from elsewhere.

Let’s say the original Moon is like a car with its parts replaced at different periods. Would you be surprised if you found a part from 2008 on a Toyota Camry that came out in 1998? Would you ask: Why is this part so young? Or why doesn’t it match the year this car was manufactured? If you must insist that a car with such a condition is formed naturally, then of course none of these facts can be explained, but if you can accept that it is an artificial product, then any oddity is explainable.

That is the difficulty that scientists have encountered when studying the Moon. If there is the possibility that the Moon is a prehistoric artifact, then all these puzzles are solved. 

For example, the reason the Moon has a hollow core could be that it was more economical to be made this way. The front of the Moon, which is always facing the Earth, is kept from the bombardment of meteorites in space because as soon as the meteorites approach, they are pulled away by the Earth’s gravity. This could be intentional to ensure the continued proper function of the Moon because, without it, the Earth would not have existed for this long. The back of the Moon, on the other hand, is constantly being hit, so naturally, it has bumps like a pockmarked face.

The Moon’s rocky crust has a higher metal content than the Earth’s, with about 10 times more titanium than the Earth’s crust. This makes the Moon’s crust much harder, so even without the protection of an atmosphere, the constant bombardment by meteorites on the surface has not been as damaging. 

To sum up, the Moon as a whole remains a mystery and more research is needed to unravel it. Is the Moon a natural body? Or is it artificial? There’s a famous Sherlock Holmes quote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” 

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  • Just Strange

    Have you ever wondered why some things happen the way they do? Our universe is filled with unexplained phenomenon that we don't fully understand. Believe It or Not delves into a world of unexplained where truth is stranger than fiction.