Scientists have found out when volcanoes appeared on the moon

(ORDO NEWS) — Fifty years ago, NASA space program conducted the first missions to return samples from the moon.

This included moon rocks brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts and those obtained from robotic missions.

The analysis of these rocks revealed a lot about the composition, formation and geological history of the Moon.

In particular, scientists came to the conclusion that the rocks were formed as a result of volcanic eruptions more than 3 billion years ago.

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

The study 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 Lithosphere Evolution and Earth and Planet 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 Planetary Science.

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

However, the 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 has been at least a billion years longer than previously expected.

Being a small rocky body, the heat that fueled volcanism on the Moon must have been lost long before these eruptions occurred.

Scientists have previously speculated that late-stage volcanism could be caused by increased water content or the decay of radioactive elements in the lunar mantle.

However, numerous analyzes performed on samples taken by the Chang’e-5 rover ruled out this consensus.

Based on their analysis, the CAS researchers found that low-melting-point minerals in the mantle could have allowed compression, resulting in young volcanism. Professor Chen explained:

“The recent melting of the lunar mantle could be achieved either by an increase in temperature or by a decrease in the melting point,” he said.

“To better understand this issue, we need to evaluate the temperature and pressure at which young volcanism was created.”

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

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