Meteorites expose Moon surface formation

Aug 12, 2014 by Hayley Dunning
Meteorites expose Moon surface formation
The light surfaces of the Moon form the crust. Credit: © Jamie Cooper

Lunar meteorites contradict a theory of how the Moon's crust formed, originally based on Apollo mission samples.

The composition of Moon rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts led to the theory of a largely molten early Moon that cooled to form a global crust. New evidence from lunar meteorites paints a more complex picture.

The Apollo samples were collected from the 'near' side on the Moon, the side permanently turned towards Earth, whereas lunar meteorites found on Earth likely include more of the Moon's surface.

A new analysis of lunar meteorites led by Museum expert Prof Sara Russell shows the Moon's surface is much more variable than earlier studies of the Apollo samples suggest.

'This very careful and detailed study of two meteorites has given clear evidence that the elegant older model of how much of the Moon's crust formed is much too simplistic,' said Museum co-author Anton Kearsley.

Complicated crust

Prof Russell and colleagues analysed crystals of the lunar crust preserved in meteorites to determine their chemical make-up.

Subtle but very significant differences were found between the meteorites and the Apollo samples and between different meteorites, suggesting the lunar crust did not form from a common source.

Combined with data from other researchers detailing a wide variety of ages for lunar crust relics in meteorites, the data challenge the assumption that a global magma ocean on a largely molten early Moon was the predominant source of all the light that we see today.

'This strongly suggests that the Moon's pale crust developed by the addition of new material and the reworking of old material, over a much longer time than we used to think,' said Kearsley.

Dynamic surface

Instead of a global magma ocean, there may have been a long series of melting processes that produced similar, but not identical, materials in different regions of the Moon.

It is also possible that the intense impact bombardment by asteroids left over from the formation of the solar system may have created regional melting spots in the surface crust of the still-warm early Moon. These pockets would now show slightly different chemical compositions.

The paper is published today in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A dealing with the origins of the Moon.

Explore further: Tidal forces gave moon its shape, according to new analysis

More information: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, rsta.royalsocietypublishing.or… 24/20130241.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Water hidden in the Moon may have proto-Earth origin

Sep 10, 2013

Water found in ancient Moon rocks might have actually originated from the proto-Earth and even survived the Moon-forming event. Latest research into the amount of water within lunar rocks returned during ...

Tidal forces gave moon its shape, according to new analysis

Jul 30, 2014

The shape of the moon deviates from a simple sphere in ways that scientists have struggled to explain. A new study by researchers at UC Santa Cruz shows that most of the moon's overall shape can be explained by taking into ...

Water on the moon: It's been there all along

Feb 18, 2013

Traces of water have been detected within the crystalline structure of mineral samples from the lunar highland upper crust obtained during the Apollo missions, according to a University of Michigan researcher ...

Digging deep in search of water on the moon

May 19, 2014

One of the main aims of the Apollo missions of the 1960s was to determine whether the moon had any water on it. If man were to build a colony on the moon, having water present would make living there easier.

Recommended for you

Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe

16 hours ago

A frozen fuel pipe in the upper stage of a Soyuz launcher likely caused the failure last month to place two European navigation satellites in orbit, a source close to the inquiry said Wednesday.

Cyanide ice in Titan's atmosphere

18 hours ago

Gigantic polar clouds of hydrogen cyanide roughly four times the area of the UK are part of the impressive atmospheric diversity of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, a new study led by Leiden Observatory, ...

Video: Alleged meteor caught on Russian dash cam (again)

22 hours ago

Thanks to the ubiquity of dashboard-mounted video cameras in Russia yet another bright object has been spotted lighting up the sky over Siberia, this time a "meteor-like object" seen on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 27.

User comments : 0