Home South pole ice The origin of the moon: The moon inherited the native noble gases of helium and neon from the Earth’s mantle, according to a study

The origin of the moon: The moon inherited the native noble gases of helium and neon from the Earth’s mantle, according to a study


London, August 14: Scientists have discovered the first definitive evidence that the Moon inherited the native noble gases of helium and neon from Earth’s mantle. The finding, published in the journal Science Advances, adds to already strong constraints on the currently favored “giant impact” theory which assumes the Moon was formed by a massive collision between Earth and another celestial body.

It is also an important piece of the puzzle for understanding how the Moon and, potentially, the Earth and other celestial bodies formed. For the study, the ETH Zurich team analyzed six samples of lunar meteorites from an Antarctic collection, obtained from NASA. Meteorites are made up of basalt rocks that formed when magma erupted from inside the Moon and cooled rapidly. According to a study, the ice deposits reported at the south pole of the Moon could have several sources.

They remained covered with additional layers of basalt after their formation, which protected the rock from cosmic rays and, in particular, from the solar wind. The cooling process resulted in the formation of moonglass particles among other minerals found in the magma.

The team found that the glass particles retain the chemical fingerprints (isotopic signatures) of solar gases: helium and neon from inside the Moon. Their findings strongly support that the Moon inherited Earth’s native noble gases.

“Finding solar gases, for the first time, in basalt materials on the Moon that are not related to any exposure on the lunar surface was such an exciting result,” said Patrizia Will of ETH Zurich.

Without the protection of an atmosphere, asteroids continuously bombard the Moon’s surface. It likely took a high-energy impact to eject the meteorites from the middle layers of the lava flow similar to the vast plains known as Lunar Mare.

Eventually, the rock fragments made their way to Earth in the form of meteorites. Many of these meteorite samples are collected from the deserts of North Africa or, in this case, the “cold desert” of Antarctica where they are easier to spot in the landscape. Knowing where to look in NASA’s vast collection of some 70,000 approved meteorites is a major breakthrough.

“I strongly believe that there will be a race to study heavy noble gases and isotopes in meteoritic materials,” said Henner Busemann, professor at ETH Zurich. He predicts that soon researchers will be looking for noble gases such as xenon and krypton which are harder to identify. They will also look for other volatile elements such as hydrogen or halogens in lunar meteorites.

“Although such gases are not necessary for life, it would be interesting to know how some of these noble gases survived the brutal and violent formation of the moon. Such knowledge could help geochemical and geophysical scientists to create new models that show more generally how these more volatile elements can survive planet formation, in our solar system and beyond,” Busemann said.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on August 14, 2022 at 7:29 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and fashion of life, log on to our website latestly.com).