Precious metals can exist under the moon's surface, scientists say.
A team of researchers made the prediction after modeling the geological conditions that could exist on the inside of the Earth's satellite.
They discovered that the moon's mantle is probably rich in certain & # 39; siderophilic & # 39; elements that, like gold and platinum, attach easily to iron.
However, it is unclear which precious metals can lie exactly below the surface of the moon and whether this would be easy to extract if desired.
Nevertheless, the results help shed light on why rocks brought back from the moon by the Apollo missions contain fewer siderophilic elements than predicted.
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Precious metals can exist beneath the surface of the moon, depicted in this artist's model, experts suggest modeling the conditions of magma in the natural satellite
Geologist James Brenan of the Canadian Dalhousie University and colleagues went in search of the composition of the moon mantle, in particular that of so-called iron-loving – or siderophilic – elements, including gold and platinum.
Experts believe that these were not part of the moon when it was first formed after a planet the size of Mars collided with Earth and threw material into space.
Instead, they were delivered to the moon in a series of shocks around the time the solar system formation period ended.
Knowing the proportion of siderophilic elements that make up the moon would help researchers determine the magnitude of the bombing of the early moon.
The researchers started by considering the material that was brought back from the moon about 50 years ago and that is immediately available for study.
& # 39; We have a total of 400 kilograms of monster that was reduced by the Apollo and Moon missions & # 39 ;, Professor Brenan told ScienceAlert.
# It is a fairly small amount of material. So to find out something about the interior of the moon, we need to reverse engineer the composition of the lava's that come to the surface. & # 39;
Previous research into rocks reduced by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, however, yielded siderophilic levels about 10-100 times smaller than expected.
The numbers would not even rise if experts tried to take into account how impacts in the early lunar surface – unlike those who hit the Earth – might have eroded the moon from its total mass instead of adding to it.
Instead, Professor Brenan and colleagues went back to basics and modeled how rocks on the surface of the moon were formed from the magma below.
They discovered that the moon's mantle is probably rich in certain & # 39; siderophilic & # 39; elements, such as gold and platinum, easily bind with iron
They combined models of the pressures and temperatures in cooling magma with laboratory-based experiments on how sulfur dissolves in molten rock.
The team discovered that the parts of the lunar mantle from which lava comes are dominated by low-sulfur, iron-rich sulfides that concentrate certain highly siderophilic elements more than others – preventing them from reaching the surface.
& # 39; Our results show that sulfur in the moon's volcanic rock is a fingerprint for the presence of iron sulfide in the rocky interior of the moon & # 39 ;, Professor Brenan told ScienceAlert.
This, he added, is where we think the precious metals were left when the lava was made. & # 39;
The researchers explain the differences between their models and the measurements of lunar surface rocks as a product of mixing between the magma and the surface of rocks containing impact litter.
& # 39; The composition of the moon mantle is veiled by regolith contamination of the moon basalt & # 39 ;, the researchers wrote in their paper.
& # 39; Strong siderophilic element abundance in lunar mantle materials cannot be used to determine the mass of material that has grown on the moon late. & # 39;
This finding also means that we cannot use volcanic rocks from the lunar surface to indicate which precious metals can be found underneath.
In addition, these metals are unlikely to be found in high concentrations of ore that are easy to mine and process, so a moon & # 39; gold rush & # 39; is perhaps not on the horizon.
Although the findings of the current study leave much uncertainty, scientists may be able to find out more about the inner composition of the moon by studying deep rock formations exposed by collisions in the southern region of the moon.
& # 39; It's pretty exciting to think we might return to the moon & # 39 ;, Brenan told ScienceAlert.
& # 39; And if so, the South Pole seems to be a good choice for taking samples. & # 39;
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
WHAT ARE THE THEORIES ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE MOON?
Many researchers believe that the moon was formed after the earth was hit by a planet as large as Mars billions of years ago.
This is called the giant impact hypothesis.
The theory suggests that the moon consists of debris that remains after a collision between our planet and a body about 4.5 billion years ago.
The clashing body is sometimes called Theia, after the mythical Greek Titan who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon.
Many researchers believe that the moon was formed after the earth was hit by a planet as large as Mars billions of years ago. This is called the giant impact hypothesis
But one mystery remains, revealed by rocks that the Apollo astronauts have brought from the moon: why are the moon and the earth so alike?
Over the years, various theories have emerged to explain the similar fingerprints of the earth and moon.
Perhaps the impact created a huge cloud of debris that mixed thoroughly with the earth and later condensed to form the moon.
Or Theia could happen to be chemically comparable to the young earth.
A third possibility is that the moon is formed from earthly materials, rather than from Theia, although this would have been a very unusual type of impact.
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