The Earth’s Moon had a rough start in life. Formed from a chunk of the Earth that was lopped off during a planetary collision, it spent its early years covered by a roiling global ocean of molten magma before cooling and forming the serene surface we know today.
A research team, led by Nick Dygert, assistant professor in the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, took to the lab to recreate the magmatic melt that once formed the lunar surface and uncovered new insights on how the modern moonscape came to be. Their study shows that the Moon’s crust initially formed from rock floating to the surface of the magma ocean and cooling. However, the team also found that one of the great mysteries of the lunar body’s formation – how it could develop a crust composed of just one mineral – cannot be explained by the initial crust formation and must have been the result of some secondary event.
The results were published on Nov. 21 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Dygert led the research while a postdoctoral researcher in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. He completed the analysis and manuscript after he arrived at UT.
“It’s fascinating to me that there could be a body as big as the Moon that was completely molten,” Dygert said. “That we can run these simple experiments, in these tiny little capsules here on Earth and make first order predictions about how such a large body would have evolved is one of the really exciting things about mineral physics.”
Read the full story, see photos and a video on the The University of Texas at Austin’s website.