(ORDO NEWS) — Geochemists, cosmic chemists and petrologists at ETH Zurich have shed new light on the history of the Moon’s origin. In a study published in the journal Science Advances, a team of scientists report that the Moon has inherited the local noble gases helium and neon from the Earth’s mantle.
The discovery adds to the currently popular theory that suggests that the Moon was formed as a result of a massive collision of the Earth with another celestial body.
During her research at ETH Zurich, Patricia Will analyzed six samples of lunar meteorites from the Antarctic collection received from NASA.
Meteorites are made up of basalt rock, which was formed when magma erupted from the moon’s interior and quickly cooled.
They remained covered with additional layers of basalt, which protected the rock from cosmic rays and from the solar wind.
The cooling process resulted in the formation of lunar glass particles among other minerals found in the magma.
Will and her team found that the glass particles retain the isotopic signatures of helium and neon from the Moon’s interior.
The results of their study convincingly confirm that the Moon has inherited the noble gases inherent in the Earth.
The Noble Gas Laboratory at ETH Zurich houses a modern noble gas mass spectrometer called “Tom Dooley”.
With it, scientists were able to measure submillimeter glass particles from meteorites and rule out the solar wind as the source of the detected gases.
The helium and neon they found were in greater quantities than expected.
Tom Dooley is so sensitive that it is, in fact, the only instrument in the world capable of detecting such minimal concentrations of helium and neon.
It was used to detect these noble gases in grains of the 7-billion-year-old Murchison meteorite, the oldest solid known today.
“I firmly believe that there will be a race to study heavy noble gases and isotopes in meteoritic materials,” said ETH Zurich Professor Henner Busemann, an expert in the geochemistry of extraterrestrial noble gases.
“It would be interesting to know how some of these noble gases survived the formation of the moon. This knowledge could help scientists in the field of geochemistry and geophysics create new models that show how such volatile elements can survive the formation of planets in our solar system and beyond.”
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