The Moon’s crust was significantly formed under giant meteorite impacts, a new study led by the Royal Ontario Museum and published in Nature Astronomy has revealed. A group of international scientists analysed a lunar rock brought to the Earth back from the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 to conclude, based on the mineralogical evidence it contained, that their object of study was formed at excessively high temperatures, more than 2,300°C, possibly as the result of a large impact event. According to researchers, the moon’s surface melted to then reform into a solid state.
“Rocks on Earth are constantly being recycled, but the Moon doesn't exhibit plate tectonics or volcanism, allowing older rocks to be preserved”, says Dr. Lee White, the postdoctoral research fellow at the Royal Ontario Museum and one of the paper’s authors.
“By studying the Moon, we can better understand the earliest history of our planet. If large, super-heated impacts were creating rocks on the Moon, the same process was probably happening here on Earth”, the scientist explained.
According to another researcher involved in the study, Dr. James Darling, the new finding significantly changed the scientists’ understanding of the Moon’s geology, as it revealed that “unimaginably violent impact events helped to build the lunar crust, not only destroy it”.
“Going forward, it is exciting that we now have laboratory tools to help us fully understand their effects on the terrestrial planets”, the isotope geochemist added.