Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Moon's crust underwent resurfacing after forming from magma ocean

22.11.2017

The Earth's Moon had a rough start in life. Formed from a chunk of the Earth that was lopped off during a planetary collision, it spent its early years covered by a roiling global ocean of molten magma before cooling and forming the serene surface we know today.

A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences took to the lab to recreate the magmatic melt that once formed the lunar surface and uncovered new insights on how the modern moonscape came to be.


This is a moon crust formation graphic.

Credit: The University of Texas at Austin/Jackson School of Geosciences

Their study shows that the Moon's crust initially formed from rock floating to the surface of the magma ocean and cooling. However, the team also found that one of the great mysteries of the lunar body's formation - how it could develop a crust composed of just one mineral - cannot be explained by the initial crust formation and must have been the result of some secondary event.

The results were published on Nov. 21 in the Journal for Geophysical Research: Planets.

"It's fascinating to me that there could be a body as big as the Moon that was completely molten," said Nick Dygert, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who led the research while a postdoctoral researcher in the Jackson School's Department of Geological Sciences. "That we can run these simple experiments, in these tiny little capsules here on Earth and make first order predictions about how such a large body would have evolved is one of the really exciting things about mineral physics."

Dygert collaborated with Jackson School Associate Professor Jung-Fu Lin, Professor James Gardner and Ph.D. student Edward Marshall, as well as Yoshio Kono, a beamline scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Large portions of the Moon's crust are made up of 98 percent plagioclase--a type of mineral. According to prevailing theory, which the study calls into question, the purity is due to plagioclase floating to the surface of the magma ocean over hundreds of millions of years and solidifying into the Moon's crust. This theory hinges on the magma ocean having a specific viscosity, a term related to the magma's "gooiness," that would allow plagioclase to separate from other dense minerals it crystallized with and rise to the top.

Dygert decided to test the plausibility of this theory by measuring the viscosity of lunar magma directly. The feat involved recreating the molten material in the lab by flash melting mineral powders in Moon-like proportions in a high pressure apparatus at a synchrotron facility, a machine that shoots out a concentrated beam of high energy X-rays, and then measuring the time it took for a melt-resistant sphere to sink through the magma.

"Previously, there had not been any laboratory data to support models," said Lin. "So this is really the first time we have reliable laboratory experimental results to understand how the Moon's crust and interior formed."

The experiment found that the magma melt had a very low viscosity, somewhere between that of olive oil and corn syrup at room temperature, a value that would have supported plagioclase flotation. However, it would have also led to mixing of plagioclase with the magma, a process that would trap other minerals in between the plagioclase crystals, creating an impure crust on the lunar surface. Because satellite-based investigations demonstrate that a significant portion of the crust on the Moon's surface is pure, a secondary process must have resurfaced the Moon, exposing a deeper, younger, purer layer of flotation crust. Dygert said the results support a "crustal overturn" on the lunar surface where the old mixed crust was replaced with young, buoyant, hot deposits of pure plagioclase. The older cruse could have also been eroded away by asteroids slamming into the Moon's surface.

Dygert said the study's results exemplify how small-scale experiments can lead to large-scale understanding of geological processes that build planetary bodies in our solar system and others.

"I view the Moon as a planetary lab," Dygert said. "It's so small that it cooled quickly, and there's no atmosphere or plate tectonics to wipe out the earliest processes of planetary evolution. The concepts described here could be applicable to just about any planet."

Media Contact

Monica Kortsha
mkortsha@jsg.utexas.edu
512-471-2241

 @UTAustin

http://www.utexas.edu 

Monica Kortsha | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

nachricht Protecting the power grid: Advanced plasma switch for more efficient transmission
17.08.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>