JUL 13, 2020 3:28 PM PDT

Earth's Moon Had Magma Ocean for 200 Million Years

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

The moon may have hosted an ocean of magma for 200 million years according to new findings- considerably longer than previously thought. 

So far, the leading explanation for how the moon came to be is that it came as the result of a collision between two protoplanets or young planets. One of those was the nascent Earth, and the other: an object the size of Mars known as Theia. 

"An important outcome of this scenario is that the early moon, which accreted from the debris of this giant impact, was very hot — hot enough for its rocky mantle to be largely molten and form what we call a magma ocean," says lead author of the new study, Maxime Maurice, a planetary scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin. 

Although the idea of the moon being home to a large magma ocean is generally accepted, how long it took to solidify remains a mystery. While previous models suggest that this happened quickly- just some tens of millions of years- current findings indicate otherwise. 

In the new study, researchers built a model to consider many processes disregarded until now to calculate how quickly the lunar magma solidified. One such process is mantle convection- the way molten rock churns to the surface of a planet, much like how volcanoes work on Earth. 

In accounting for these features, they found that the luna magma sea may have taken between 150 and 200 million years to solidify, or ten times longer than previously thought. The model also suggests that the moon is between 4.4 billion and 4.45 billion years old- around 50 million to 100 million years younger than previously suggested. 

Should these findings be correct, it means that large-scale collisions, such as those that birthed the moon, were still happening 150 million years after the solar system came to be. 

"It was very exciting to see that our findings had these kinds of broad implications," says Maurice. 

 

Sources: Space.comScience Advances 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
MAY 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What Exactly Are Star Clusters?
MAY 10, 2020
What Exactly Are Star Clusters?
When you think of stellar systems, you might be inclined to think of a system like our own with just one star, or perhap ...
MAY 11, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Hear What Astronauts Think About SpaceX's Upcoming Crewed Launch
MAY 11, 2020
Hear What Astronauts Think About SpaceX's Upcoming Crewed Launch
On Wednesday, May 27th, NASA will entrust commercial space company SpaceX with the coveted task of flying astronauts to ...
MAY 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Another SpaceX Starship Prototype Explodes During Testing
MAY 31, 2020
Another SpaceX Starship Prototype Explodes During Testing
Incomplete Starship prototypes are a common sight if you follow SpaceX’s plethora of rocket-centric projects, but ...
JUN 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
JUN 14, 2020
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
NASA is no stranger to autonomous rovers. To date, the American space agency has sent four rovers to the Martian surface ...
JUN 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What Will it Take to Photograph a Black Hole's Photon Ring?
JUN 16, 2020
What Will it Take to Photograph a Black Hole's Photon Ring?
Just over a year ago, astronomers tapped into the power of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio t ...
JUN 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China to Launch First Mars Mission in July
JUN 26, 2020
China to Launch First Mars Mission in July
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has announced that it will launch Tianwen-1 ('Quest for Heavenly Trut ...
Loading Comments...