The moon recently had a lot more volcanoes than we thought, says a new study: ScienceAlert

The moon recently had a lot more volcanoes than we thought, says a new study: ScienceAlert

Fifty years ago, NASA and the Soviet space program conducted the first sample return missions month. This included lunar rocks that were returned to Earth Apollo astronauts and those obtained by robotic missions that were part of the Soviet Luna program.

Analysis of these rocks has revealed much about the Moon’s composition, formation and geological history. Specifically, scientists concluded that the rocks were formed from volcanic eruptions more than 3 billion years ago.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of lunar exploration as NASA and other space agencies have sent robotic missions to the moon (in preparation for manned missions).

For example, China has sent multiple orbiters, landers and rovers to the Moon as part of the Chang’e program, including sample return missions.

A a new study led by planetary scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) analyzed samples obtained by the Chang’e-5 rover dated 2 billion years ago.

Their research could provide valuable insight into how young volcanism shaped the surface of the Moon.

The research was conducted by a team from Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGGCAS), led by Su Bin, Yuan Jiangyan and Chen Yi – members of the IGGCAS Laboratory for Lithosphere Evolution and Earth and Planetary Physics.

They were joined by researchers from the Lunar and Planetary Science Institute (LPSI) at Nanjing University and the CAS Center of Excellence in Comparative Planetology. A paper describing their findings appeared in the journal Science Advances October 21.

Based on samples returned from the Apollo and Luna missions, scientists theorized that the Moon had been geologically dead for the past 3 billion years.

However, new lunar rock samples obtained by the Chang’e-5 mission (and returned to Earth in 2021) were only 2 billion years old, indicating that volcanic activity occurred at least a billion years longer than previously thought.

As a small rocky body, the heat that drove volcanism on the Moon should have been lost long before these eruptions occurred.

Previously, scientists speculated that late-stage volcanism could have been triggered by elevated water content or decay of radioactive elements in the lunar mantle. However, many analyzes performed on samples obtained by the Chang’e-5 rover ruled out this consensus.

Based on their analysis, the CAS researchers found that minerals with low melting points in the mantle may have enabled compression, leading to young volcanism. Prof. Chen explained in a recent CAS statement:

“Recent melting of the Moon’s mantle can be achieved either by raising the temperature or lowering the melting point,” he said. “To better understand this problem, we should estimate the temperature and pressure at which the young volcanism was created.”

For their analysis, the CAS team conducted a series of simulations of fractional crystallization and melting of the lunar mantle that compared 27 basalt clasts recovered by the Chang’e-5 mission to those returned by the Apollo missions.

They found that young magma samples had higher concentrations of calcium oxide and titanium oxide than older Apollo magma samples.

The presence of these minerals, which melt more easily than earlier mineral accumulations in the lunar mantle, means that volcanism would be gravity-driven and cause mantle material to tumble.

Their analysis revealed that mantle compression could have occurred at similar depths, but at lower temperatures that would still have produced volcanoes.

This research is unlike what planetary scientists have learned about mars in recent years. Billions of years agoThe red planet had thousands of eruptions on its surface, some of which resulted in the largest volcanoes in the Solar System (such as Olympus Mons).

Scientists suspected that Mars became geologically dead as its interior cooled. But recent findings suggest that this may still happen limited volcanic activity.

This study presents the first viable explanation for young volcanism on the Moon that is compatible with the samples returned by the Chang’e-5 rover.

This study could inform future planetary studies of the moon’s thermal and geological evolution.

As Dr.Su indicated:

“This is a fascinating result, indicating a significant contribution of the lunar magma ocean at a late stage of cumulation to the Chang’e-5 volcanic formation. We found that the Chang’e-5 magma formed at similar depths, but 80 degrees Celsius cooler than the older Apollo magma . This means that the lunar mantle experienced a sustained, slow cooling of 80 degrees Celsius from about 3 billion years ago to 2 billion years ago.”

This article was originally published by The universe today. Read it original article.

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