Contrary to Earth, our Moon has no active volcanoes, and the traces of its past volcanic activity date from billions of years ago. This is surprising, because recent Moonquake data suggest that there is plenty of liquid magma deep within the Moon because part of the rocks residing there are thought to be molten.
Scientists have now identified a likely reason for this peaceful surface life: the hot, molten rock in the Moon's deep interior could be so dense that it is simply too heavy to rise to the surface like a bubble in water. For their experiments, the scientists produced microscopic copies of moon rock collected by the Apollo missions and melted them at the extremely high pressures and temperatures found inside the Moon. They then measured their densities with powerful X-rays. The results are published in the Journal Nature Geosciences on 19 February 2012.
The team was led by Mirjam van Kan Parker and Wim van Westrenen from VU University Amsterdam and comprised scientists from the Universities of Paris 6/CNRS, Lyon 1/CNRS, Edinburgh, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.
Five decades after the Apollo missions, the formation and geological history of the Moon still hold many secrets. The astronauts not only returned 380 kg of Moon rocks to Earth but also placed many scientific instruments on the lunar surface. Last year, NASA scientists published a new model for the make-up of the interior of the Moon, using Moonquake data from these Apollo-era seismometers. Renee Weber and her colleagues claim that the deepest parts of the lunar mantle, bordering on the small metallic core, are partially molten, by up to 30 per cent. In the Earth, such bodies of magma tend to move towards the surface leading to volcanic eruptions. If the deep interior of the Moon contains so much magma, why don't we see spectacular volcanic eruptions at its surface?
The driving force for vertical movement of magma is the density difference between the magma and the surrounding solid material, making the liquid magma move slowly upwards like a bubble. The lighter the liquid magma is, the more violent the upward movement will be.
To determine the density of lunar magma, Wim van Westrenen and his colleagues synthesised moon rock in their laboratory in Amsterdam, using the composition derived from Apollo samples as their "recipe". The pressures and temperatures close to the core of the Moon are more than 45,000 bar and about 1500 degrees. It is possible to generate these extreme conditions with small samples, heating them with a high electric current while squashing them in a press. By measuring the attenuation of a powerful synchrotron X-ray beam at the ESRF traversing the sample both solid and molten, the density at high pressure and high temperature could be measured. "We had to use the most brilliant X-ray beam in the world for this experiment because the magma sample is so tiny and confined in a massive, highly absorbing container. Without a bright beam of X-rays, you cannot measure these density variations", says Mohamed Mezouar from the ESRF.
The measurements at the ESRF were combined with computer simulations to calculate the magma density at any location in the Moon.
Nearly all the lunar magmas were found to be less dense than their solid surroundings, similar to the situation on Earth. There is one important exception: small droplets of titanium-rich glass first found in Apollo 14 mission samples produce liquid magma as dense as the rocks found in the deepest parts of the lunar mantle today. This magma would not move towards the surface.
Such titanium-rich magma can only be formed by melting titanium rich solid rocks. Previous experiments have shown that such rocks were formed soon after the formation of the Moon at shallow levels, close to the surface. How did they get deep into the mantle? The scientists conclude that large vertical movements must have occurred early in the history of the Moon, during which titanium-rich rocks descended from near the surface all the way to the core-mantle boundary. "After descending, magma formed from these near-surface rocks, very rich in titanium, and accumulated at the bottom of the mantle – a bit like an upside-down volcano. Today, the Moon is still cooling down, as are the melts in its interior. In the distant future, the cooler and therefore solidifying melt will change in composition, likely making it less dense than its surroundings. This lighter magma could make its way again up to the surface forming an active volcano on the Moon – what a sight that would be! – but for the time being, this is just a hypothesis to stimulate more experiments", concludes Wim van Westrenen.
Claus Habfast | EurekAlert!
Climate Change in West Africa
17.06.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before
13.06.2019 | Technische Universität Graz
The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.
Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...
The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified
The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...
Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.
Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...
Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.
The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...
Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.
The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
19.06.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.06.2019 | Information Technology
19.06.2019 | Materials Sciences