Chang’E-5 samples reveal how young volcanism occurred on the moon

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A new study led by Prof. Chen Yi of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGGCAS) answers the question of how young volcanism occurred on the moon.

The researchers found that mantle melting point depression due to the presence of fusible, easy-to-melt components could generate young lunar volcanism.

Their findings were published in scientific progress on October 21.

Moon samples returned from the Apollo and Luna missions are all older than about 3 billion years, leading scientists to assume that the moon has been geologically dead since then. However, the new lunar samples returned by China’s Chang’E-5 mission in 2021 revealed surprisingly young volcanic activity only 2 billion years old.

For the small rocky moon, the heat that fueled volcanic activity should have been lost long before these eruptions, 2 billion years ago.

So what’s going on? Scientists previously speculated that increased water content or heat-producing elements in the lunar interior might have caused volcanism in the late phase of the moon’s life. But the Chang’E-5 data recently published in Nature

have ruled out these once leading hypotheses.

“Recent melting of the lunar mantle can be achieved by increasing the temperature or decreasing the melting point. To better understand this problem, we need to estimate the temperature and pressure at which the young volcanism originated,” said Prof. Chen.

The researchers ran a series of simulations of fractional crystallization and the melting of the lunar mantle to compare 27 precious Chang’E-5 basalt classes with Apollo basalts. They found that the young Chang’E-5 source magma had higher calcium oxide and titanium dioxide content than older Apollo magmas.

“This is a fascinating result, indicating a significant contribution of the late-stage lunar magma ocean cumulative to the Chang’E-5 volcanic formation,” said Dr. Su Bin, lead author of the study.

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Because the late phase magma ocean cumulations are calcium-titanium rich and melt more easily than early cumulations, adding these fusible components to the interior of the lunar gravity-driven mantle reversal could efficiently lower the mantle melting temperature and thus reduce the young moon have activated volcanism.

“We found that the Chang’E-5 magma was produced at similar depths, but 80 degrees Celsius cooler than older Apollo magmas. That means the lunar mantle experienced a sustained, slow cooling of 80 degrees Celsius of about 3 billion. years to 2 billion years ago,” said Dr. Su.

This work provides evidence for the first viable mechanism to explain young lunar volcanism that is compatible with the newly returned Chang’E-5 samples. This study could help planetary scientists better understand the moon’s thermal and magmatic evolution.

Returned samples from the Chang’E-5 mission shed new light on lunar surface composition and geological history

More information:
Bin Su et al, Fusible mantle cumulates trigger young mare volcanism on the cooling moon, scientific progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn2103.

Provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Quote: Chang’E-5 samples reveal how young volcanism occurred on the moon (2022, October 21) retrieved October 21, 2022 from volcanism. html

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