TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – Astronomers say they have solved a 55-year-old mystery about our moon.

Ever since the first satellite images of the far side of the moon were transmitted back to Earth in 1959, scientists have wondered why its surface looks different from the side that faces us.

Astrophysicists at Penn State say the solution lies in the unique relationship between the Earth and the moon.

The moon is locked in a geo-centric orbit around our planet, that means we always see the same side of the moon in the night sky.

The Earth itself is the reason. Our planet actually heated up the half of the moon that faces us, which made the crust thinner.

Astronomers believe the moon was formed by a cosmic collision billions of years ago. Because the moon is smaller, it cooled down quicker. But the Earth was still molten, and the heat softened the crust of the near side. So meteors were able to punch through the moon’s surface, causing molten material to leak out and form the marias, the large dark spots we see.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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