NASA researchers say the Moon is more metallic than previously believed

Shane McGlaun - Jul 2, 2020, 8:26am CDT
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NASA researchers say the Moon is more metallic than previously believed

A team of researchers at NASA who were hunting for ice inside of polar craters made an unexpected finding that researchers believe could help clear up some of the mystery behind the Moon’s formation. The researchers are the members of the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument team on the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The researchers found evidence that the subsurface of the Moon might be more abundant in metals such as iron and titanium than previously believed.

Researchers say that the discovery could aid in drawing a clear connection between the Earth and the Moon. Substantial evidence points to the Moon being a product of a collision between a Mars-sized proto-planet and a young Earth. The researchers say that the collision is a reason why the Moon’s bulk chemical composition closely resembles that of the Earth.

However, when the Moon’s chemical composition is looked at in detail, things get murky. In the bright lanes on the Moon’s surface, known as lunar highlands, the rocks contain smaller amounts of metal-bearing minerals compared to Earth. However, the darker plains of the Moon, known as maria has more metals than many of the rocks on Earth. That discrepancy has puzzled scientists.

The Mini-RF team has found a pattern that could be an answer to the mystery. The team noted that the dielectric constant, a number comparing the abilities of a mineral and the vacuum of space to transmit electric fields, increased with crater size. For craters that were 1 to 3 miles wide, the dielectric constant steadily increased as craters grew larger. For craters 3 to 12 miles wide, the property remained constant.

The team says that since meteors that form larger craters dig deeper into the Moon’s subsurface, the increasing dielectric constant of the dust in larger craters could be the result of the impact excavating iron and titanium oxides. This would mean that only the first few hundred meters of the surface of the Moon is low in iron and titanium oxides, but under the surface is a wealth of the metals.


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