New minerals discovered on the lunar surface


Our small satellite, the moon, is the focus of a lot of research. This time, NASA has carried out the mission of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). This mission reveals the presence of silicic minerals in several regions of the lunar surface.

These minerals are different to those found previously. However, its composition is similar to some materials found on Earth.

Researchers Benjamin Greenhagen and his team analyzed data from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer experiment on the LRO and have confirmed the presence of anomalously silica-rich material in five distinct lunar regions.

Every mineral, and therefore every rock, absorbs and emits energy with a unique spectral signature that can be measured to reveal its identify and formation mechanisms. This is how it has been discovered, in several locations around the moon, the presence of highly silicic minerals such as quartz, potassium-rich and sodium-rich feldspar.

Lunar topographic map

Lunar topographic map.

The detection of silicic minerals at these locations is a significant finding for scientists, as they occur in regions previously shown to exhibit anomalously high aboundances of the element thorium, another proxy for highly evolved lithologies (rocks that have undergone extensive magmatic processing). It would be an indication that once there was magma flowing above and below the lunar surface.

It is amazing to see how science, through the detection of silicic minerals on the moon from the LRO, we can theorize that once there was magma into the moon. In fact, Timothy Glotch says: “The fact that we see this composition in multiple geologic settings suggests that there may have been multiple processes producing these rocks.”

Cover Photo:

A lunar topographic map showing the Moon from the vantage point of the eastern limb. In this view, the yellow circles represent some of the 5185 craters equal to or greater than 20 km found on the Moon and counted in this study. On the left side of the Moon seen in this view is part of the familiar part of the Moon observed from Earth (the eastern part of the nearside). In the middle left-most part of the globe is Mare Tranquillitatis (light blue) the site of the Apollo 11 landing, and above this an oval-appearing region (Mare Serenitatis; dark blue) the site of the Apollo 17 landing. Most of the dark blue areas are lunar maria, low lying regions composed of volcanic lava flows that formed after the heavily cratered lunar highlands (and are thus much less cratered). The topography is derived from over 2.4 billion shots made by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument on board the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The large near-circular basins (large yellow circles) show the effects of the early impacts on early planetary crusts in the inner solar system, including the Earth.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/MIT/Brown

Updated [18 September, 2010]: New Types of Rock Found On Moon By Researchers At Stony Brook University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, full article related, by Timothy Glotch, prof. at Stony Brook University.


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