Samples from China’s lunar mission refute theories of lunar volcanism

(ORDO NEWS) — An analysis of lunar samples returned by China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission has provided a new possible answer to the question of volcanism late in the moon’s history.

Lunar samples returned by the Apollo and Luna missions are all older than about 3 billion years, but samples returned by Chang’e 5 in late 2020 confirmed remote sensing analyzes that the rocks in the area were relatively young. – only 2 billion years.

Scientists have previously speculated that either the relatively high water content or the presence of radioactive fuel elements in the lunar interior could have led to lunar late-life volcanism in some areas, but new Chang’e-5 data published in the journal Nature seem to have ruled out these hypotheses.

Researchers led by Chen Yi from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGGCAS) found that the lower melting point of part of the lunar mantle may be due to the presence of low-melting components, which led to young lunar volcanism.

“The recent melting of the lunar mantle can be achieved by either increasing the temperature or lowering the melting temperature. To better understand this problem, we need to estimate the temperature and pressure at which young volcanism arose,” Chen said in a statement.

The researchers ran a series of simulations of fractional crystallization and melting of the lunar mantle to compare 27 samples of Chang’e-5 basalt debris with Apollo basalts.

They found that the young magma collected by Chang’e 5 contained higher amounts of calcium oxide and titanium dioxide than older magmas from Apollo. These calcium- and titanium-rich cumulates of the late stages of the lunar ocean of magma melt more easily than early cumulates.

“This is a stunning result, indicating a significant contribution of late-stage lunar magma ocean cumulates to the formation of Chang’e-5 volcano,” said Dr. Su Bin, the study’s first author.

The study provides evidence for the first viable mechanism to explain young volcanism on the Moon that is compatible with the recently returned Chang’e-5 samples and may help understand the thermal and magmatic evolution of the Moon.”

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