Fifty years ago, NASA and the Soviet space program conducted the first missions to return samples from the Moon. This included lunar rocks returned to Earth by Apollo astronauts and those obtained through robotic missions that were part of the Soviet Luna program.
Analysis of these rocks revealed a great deal of the moon’s composition, composition, and geological history. In particular, scientists concluded that the rocks were formed from volcanic eruptions more than 3 billion years ago.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence in 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 several orbiter, lander, and rovers to the Moon as part of the Chang’e program, including sample return missions.
A new study led by planetary scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has analyzed samples obtained by the two-billion-year-old Chang’e-5 probe.
Their research could provide insight into how modern volcanoes formed the lunar surface.
The research was conducted by a team from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGGCAS), led by Su Bin, Yuan Jiangyan and Chen Yi – members of the IGGCAS Laboratory of Atmospheric Evolution and Earth and Planetary Physics.
They were joined by researchers from the Planetary and Lunar Science Institute (LPSI) of Nanjing University and the CAS Center of Excellence in Comparative Planetary Science. A paper describing their findings appeared in the journal science progress On October 21.
Based on samples returned from the Apollo and Luna missions, scientists have hypothesized that the Moon has died geologically within the past three billion years.
However, the new samples of lunar rocks acquired by the Chang’e-5 mission (and returned to Earth in 2021) are only 2 billion years old, indicating that volcanic activity occurred at least 1 billion years longer than previously expected. .
As a small rocky body, the heat that fueled the volcanoes on the Moon must be lost long before these eruptions occur.
Previously, scientists speculated that late-stage volcanic activity may have been driven by rising water content or the decay of radioactive elements in the lunar mantle. However, several analyzes of samples acquired by the Chang’e-5 rover have ruled out this consensus.
Based on their analysis, the Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers found that minerals with low melting points in the mantle can allow compression, triggering volcanic activity. Professor Chen explained in a recent statement to CAS:
“The final melting of the moon’s mantle can be achieved by either raising the temperature or lowering the melting point,” he said. “To better understand this problem, we must appreciate the temperature and pressure at which young volcanoes originated.”
For their analysis, the CAS team ran a series of simulations of partial crystallization and melting of the lunar mantle that compared 27 basaltic rocks acquired by the Chang’e-5 mission with those returned by the Apollo missions.
They found that the young magma samples contained higher concentrations of calcium oxide and titanium oxide than the ancient Apollo magma samples.
The presence of these minerals, which are more easily melted than the previous mineral accumulated in the lunar mantle, means that volcanic activity may have been driven by gravity and caused material in the mantle to overturn.
Their analysis revealed that mantle compression could occur at similar depths but at cooler temperatures that would still have produced volcanoes.
This research is not unlike what planetary scientists have learned about Mars in recent years. Billions of years ago, the Red Planet experienced thousands of volcanic eruptions on its surface, some of which resulted in the largest volcanoes in the Solar System (such as Olympus Mons).
Scientists suspected that Mars died geologically as the interior cooled. But recent findings suggest it may still be experiencing limited volcanic activity.
This study provides the first viable explanation for young volcanic activity on the Moon that is consistent with samples returned by the Chang’e-5 probe.
This study could inform future planetary studies of the thermal and geological evolution of the Moon.
As indicated by Dr. Sue:
“This is a remarkable result, indicating an important contribution of a late phase of lunar magma gathering to the Chang’e-5 volcanic formation. We discovered that Chang’e-5 magma was produced at similar depths but 80°C cooler than the oldest Apollo magma. This It means that the lunar mantle experienced a slow and sustained cooling of 80°C from about 3 billion years to 2 billion years ago.”
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.
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