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  • richardmitnick 10:47 am on April 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Moon Studies   

    From COSMOS: “No Moon, no magnetic field, no life on Earth: study” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    1 Apr 2016
    Belinda Smith

    Without the Moon, there would be no life on Earth, French scientists claim.

    Moon of Earth. Alfredo Garcia, Jr
    Moon of Earth. Alfredo Garcia, Jr

    The gravitational push-pull of the Moon on iron deep inside Earth keeps it hot and molten. And a liquid core is needed to generate a magnetic field, which forms a protective shield against blasts of particles from the Sun.

    Denis Andrault from Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and colleagues propose the Earth’s heated interior should have dropped by about 3,000 ºC over the past four billion years or so, but has instead remained almost constant – all because of the Moon.

    Their story, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, begins around 4.3 billion years ago, or 60 million years after the Earth’s birth.

    A massive collision turned the planet molten, with some bits flung out to clump together and become the Moon. Back then, the core of the Earth would’ve sat around 6,800 Kelvin, or around 6,500 ºC.

    After around a million years of cooling, Earth developed a thin crust and the beginnings of a mantle – a thick layer of hot rock between crust and core. The core, at this point all liquid, started to produce a magnetic field. This, the scientists write, was a stage of “thermally driven dynamo” as heat rose from the centre of the core towards the surface of the planet, churning parallel to Earth’s axis of rotation.

    Following another billion years or so, the core started to solidify in its centre, while the liquid outer core kept churning and the mantle cooled. Then, by a billion years ago or so, the temperature of the core should have dropped 3,000 ºC.

    But it didn’t, Andrault and colleagues claim – instead, it dropped only 300 ºC.

    In the most recent billion years, the temperature was propped up by tidal forces from the Moon squishing and stretching the mantle, along with forces from our orbit around the Sun. This “mechanical forcing”, they write, “could have started to induce core motions as soon as the Moon was formed”.

    They created a thermal model of the deep Earth’s geodynamo – an “orbitally driven dynamo” – and showed the Moon’s effects made up for the heat lost into space.

    And because nothing’s perfect – not Earth’s slightly wobbly rotation or the Moon’s orbit – small irregularities can cause fluctuations in the geodynamo. Pulses of heat may have melted parts of the deep mantle which, in turn, may have led to major volcanic eruptions on the surface.

    The deep Earth may not be cooling down

    Science team:
    Denis Andrault, a; Julien Monteuxa, a; Michael Le Bars ,b; Henri Samuel, c
    a Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans, CNRS-OPGC-IRD, Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France
    b CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, Ecole Centrale Marseille, IRPHE, UMR 7342, Marseille, France
    c Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France

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  • richardmitnick 9:20 pm on September 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Moon Studies, , NASA LRO   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s LRO Discovers Earth’s Pull is ‘Massaging’ our Moon” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sep. 15, 2015
    Nancy Neal-Jones / William Steigerwald
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

    The gravitational forces the Moon and Sun exert are responsible for Earth’s rising and falling tides. Earth’s gravity also exerts forces on the Moon in the form of solid body tides that distort its shape. The Moon is slowly receding away from Earth and forces build as the Moon’s tidal distortion diminishes with distance and its rotation period slows with time. These tidal forces combined with the shrinking of the Moon from cooling of its interior have influenced the pattern of orientations in the network of young fault scarps.
    Credits: NASA/LRO/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

    In August, 2010, researchers using images from LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) reported the discovery of 14 cliffs known as “lobate scarps” on the moon’s surface, in addition to about 70 previously known from the limited high-resolution Apollo Panoramic Camera photographs. Due largely to their random distribution across the surface, the science team concluded that the moon is shrinking.

    NASA Lunar Reconnaisence Orbiter
    NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

    Thousands of young, lobate thrust fault scarps have been revealed in Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images (LROC). Lobate scarps like the one shown here are like stair-steps in the landscape formed when crustal materials are pushed together, break and are thrust upward along a fault forming a cliff. Cooling of the still hot lunar interior is causing the Moon to shrink, but the pattern of orientations of the scarps indicate that tidal forces are contributing to the formation of the young faults. Credits: NASA/LRO/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

    These small faults are typically less than 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) long and only tens of yards or meters high. They are most likely formed by global contraction resulting from cooling of the moon’s still hot interior. As the interior cools and portions of the liquid outer core solidify, the volume decreases; thus the moon shrinks and the solid crust buckles.

    Now, after more than six years in orbit, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has imaged nearly three-fourths of the lunar surface at high resolution, allowing the discovery of over 3,000 more of these features. These globally distributed faults have emerged as the most common tectonic landform on the moon. An analysis of the orientations of these small scarps yielded a surprising result: the faults created as the moon shrinks are being influenced by an unexpected source—gravitational tidal forces from Earth.

    Global contraction alone should generate an array of thrust faults with no particular pattern in the orientations of the faults, because the contracting forces have equal magnitude in all directions. “This is not what we found,” says Smithsonian senior scientist Thomas Watters of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. “There is a pattern in the orientations of the thousands of faults and it suggests something else is influencing their formation, something that’s also acting on a global scale — ‘massaging’ and realigning them.” Watters is lead author of the paper describing this research published in the October issue of the journal Geology.

    The other forces acting on the moon come not from its interior, but from Earth. These are tidal forces. When the tidal forces are superimposed on the global contraction, the combined stresses should cause predictable orientations of the fault scarps from region to region. “The agreement between the mapped fault orientations and the fault orientations predicted by the modeled tidal and contractional forces is pretty striking,” says Watters.

    “The discovery of so many previously undetected tectonic features as our LROC high-resolution image coverage continues to grow is truly remarkable,” said Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, coauthor and LROC principal investigator. “Early on in the mission we suspected that tidal forces played a role in the formation of tectonic features, but we did not have enough coverage to make any conclusive statements. Now that we have NAC images with appropriate lighting for more than half of the moon, structural patterns are starting to come into focus.”

    The fault scarps are very young – so young that they are likely still actively forming today. The team’s modeling shows that the peak stresses are reached when the moon is farthest from Earth in its orbit (at apogee). If the faults are still active, the occurrence of shallow moonquakes related to slip events on the faults may be most frequent when the moon is at apogee. This hypothesis can be tested with a long-lived lunar seismic network.

    The map shows the locations of over 3,200 lobate thrust fault scarps (red lines) on the Moon. The black double arrows show the average orientations of the lobate scarps sampled in areas with dimensions of 40° longitude by 20° latitude and scaled by the total length of the fault scarps in the sampled areas. The pattern of the black double arrows (orientation vectors) indicates that the fault scarps do not have random orientations as would be expected if the forces that formed them were from global contraction alone. Mare basalt units are shown in tan. Credits: NASA/LRO/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

    “With LRO we’ve been able to study the moon globally in detail not yet possible with any other body in the solar system beyond Earth, and the LRO data set enables us to tease out subtle but important processes that would otherwise remain hidden,” said John Keller, LRO Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

    A prominent lobate fault scarp in the Vitello Cluster is one of thousands discovered in Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images (LROC). Topography derived from the LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) stereo images shows a degraded crater has been uplift as the fault scarp has formed (blues are lower elevations and reds are higher elevations). Boulders in the crater have aligned in rows that parallel the orientation of the fault scarp. Credits: NASA/LRO/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

    A nadir (top) and perspective view (bottom) of a prominent lobate fault scarp in the Vitello Cluster, one of thousands discovered in Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images (LROC). In the perspective view, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image is draped over topography derived from NAC stereo images. A degraded crater has been uplift as the fault scarp has formed. Boulders in the crater have aligned in rows that parallel the orientation of the fault scarp. Credits: NASA/LRO/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

    Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the moon. LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, under the Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 9:21 am on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Brown: “Research may solve lunar fire fountain mystery” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    Evidence of lunar fire fountains Fire fountains — dramatic, explosive volcanic eruptions — require volatile elements mixed in with lava. New research by Alberto Saal and colleagues suggests that carbon monoxide was the volcanic gas that drove lunar fire fountains. Photo: Mike Cohea/Brown University

    Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists from Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Science have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions.

    Fire fountains, a type of eruption that occurs frequently in Hawaii, require the presence of volatiles mixed in with the erupting lava. Volatile compounds turn into gas as the lavas rise from the depths. That expansion of that gas causes lava to blast into the air once it reaches the surface, a bit like taking the lid off a shaken bottle of soda.

    “The question for many years was what gas produced these sorts of eruptions on the Moon,” said Alberto Saal, associate professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and corresponding author of the new research. “The gas is gone, so it hasn’t been easy to figure out.”

    The research, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that lava associated with lunar fire fountains contained significant amounts of carbon. As it rose from the lunar depths, that carbon combined with oxygen to make substantial amounts carbon monoxide (CO) gas. That CO gas was responsible for the fire fountains that sprayed volcanic glass over parts of the lunar surface.

    For many years, the Moon was thought to be devoid of volatiles like hydrogen and carbon. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that volatiles were definitively detected in lunar samples. In 2008, Saal and colleagues detected water in lunar volcanic beads. They followed that discovery with detections of sulfur, chlorine and fluorine. While it became apparent that the Moon was not completely depleted of volatiles as was once thought, none of the volatiles that had been detected were consistent with fire fountain eruptions. For example, if water had been the driving force, there should be mineralogical signatures in recovered samples. There are none.

    For this research, Saal and his colleagues carefully analyzed glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. In particular, they looked at samples that contained melt inclusions, tiny dots of molten magma that became trapped within crystals of olivine. The crystals trap gases present in the magma before they can escape.

    Volcanic evidence Super-tiny bits of molten magma became trapped in tiny crystals of olivine, preserving evidence of volatile gasses. Saal lab/Brown University

    Although other volatiles were previously detected in the lunar volcanic glasses and melt inclusions, the measurement of carbon remained elusive due to the high detection limits of the available analytical techniques. Erik Hauri from Carnegie Institution for Science developed a state-of-the-art ion probe technique reducing the detection limits of carbon by two orders of magnitude. That allows a measurement of as low as 0.1 part per million.

    “This breakthrough depended on the ability of Carnegie’s NanoSIMS ion probe to measure incredibly low levels of carbon, on objects that are the diameter of a human hair,” said Hauri. “It is really a remarkable achievement both scientifically and technically.”

    The researchers probed the melt inclusions using secondary ion mass spectroscopy. They calculated that the samples contained initially 44 to 64 parts per million carbon. Having detected carbon, the researchers devised a theoretical model of how gases would escape from lunar magma at various depths and pressures, calibrated from the results of high-pressure lab experiments. The model had long been used for Earth. Saal and colleagues changed several parameters to match the composition and conditions affecting lunar magma.

    The model showed that carbon, as it combines with oxygen to form CO gas, would have degassed before other volatiles.

    “Most of the carbon would have degassed deep under the surface,” Saal said. “Other volatiles like hydrogen degassed later, when the magma was much closer to the surface and after the lava began breaking up into small globules. That suggests carbon was driving the process in its early stages.”

    In addition to providing a potential answer to longstanding questions surrounding lunar fire fountains, the findings also serve as more evidence that some volatile reservoirs in the Moon’s interior share a common origin with reservoirs in the Earth, the researchers say.

    The amount of carbon detected in the melt inclusions was found to be very similar to the amount of carbon found in basalts erupted at Earth’s mid-ocean ridges. Saal and his colleagues have shown previously that Earth and the Moon have similar concentrations of water and other volatiles. They have also shown that hydrogen isotope ratios from lunar samples are similar to that of Earth.

    If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon’s origin. Scientists believe the Moon formed when Earth was hit by a Mars-size object very early in its history. Debris from that impact accreted to form the Moon.

    “The volatile evidence suggests that either some of Earth’s volatiles survived that impact and were included in the accretion of the Moon or that volatiles were delivered to both the Earth and Moon at the same time from a common source — perhaps a bombardment of primitive meteorites,” Saal said.

    Other authors on the paper were Diane Wetzel, a graduate student at Brown, and Malcolm Rutherford, professor of geological sciences. The study was supported by NASA’s LASER program (NNX08AY97G and NNX11AB27G), NASA’s Cosmochemistry program (NNX12AH62G), the Deep Carbon Observatory, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 9:22 pm on April 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Moon Studies,   

    From SwRI: “SwRI-led team studies meteorites from asteroids to date Moon-forming impact” 

    SwRI bloc

    Southwest Research Institute

    April 16, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    A NASA-funded research team led by Dr. Bill Bottke of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) independently estimated the Moon’s age as slightly less than 4.5 billion years by analyzing impact-heated shock signatures found in stony meteorites originating from the Main Asteroid Belt. Their work will appear in the April 2015 issue of the journal Science.

    “This research is helping to refine our time scales for ‘what happened when’ on other worlds in the solar system,” said Bottke, of the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets (ISET). ISET is a founding member of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) and is based in SwRI’s Boulder, Colo. office.

    The Moon-forming giant impact, which took place between a large protoplanet and the proto-Earth, was the inner Solar System’s biggest and most recent known collision. Its timing, however, is still uncertain. Ages of the most ancient lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts are still being debated.


    Images Courtesy of Southwest Research Institute

    Two frames that show a mapping of final material states of the Moon-forming impact event. Here it is assumed that a Mars-sized protoplanet, defined as having 13% of an Earth-mass, struck the proto-Earth at a 45 degree angle near the mutual escape velocity of both worlds. The “red” particles, comprising 0.3% of an Earth-mass, were found to escape the Earth-Moon system. Some of this debris may eventually go on to strike other solar system bodies like large main belt asteroids. “Yellow–green” particles go into the disk that makes the Moon. “Blue” particles were accreted by the proto-Earth.

    The first frame shows the mapping onto the pre-impact states of the Moon-forming impactor and proto-Earth. The second frame shows the mapping nearly 20 minutes into the impact event. The details of this simulation can be found in Canup, R. (2004, Simulations of a late lunar-forming impact, Icarus 168, 433–456).

    Image Courtesy of Vishnu Reddy, Planetary Science Institute

    A meteorite fragment found after a 17–20 meter asteroid disrupted in the atmosphere near Chelyabinsk, Russia on Feb. 15, 2013. The blast wave produced by this event not only caused damage over a wide area but also created a strewn field of stony meteorites like this one. The meteorite is an ordinary chondrite (type LL5). It shows a beautiful contact between impact melt (dark material at top of image) and chondritic host (light material at bottom of image). Chondrules (circular features) are visible in the chondritic host at the bottom and right-hand side of the image. Portions of the chondrite were broken or otherwise separated and have migrated into the impact melt. The impact melt is estimated to be 4452±21 (Popova et al. 2013) and 4456±18 million years old (Lapen et al. 2014). These ages match the ~4470 million year old age of the Moon predicted by our model. We argue these impact melts were likely created when high velocity debris from the Moon-forming impact hit the parent asteroid of the Chelyabinsk bolide and heated near-surface material. (Image credit: Vishnu Reddy, Planetary Science Institute).

    The team used numerical simulations to show that the giant impact likely created a disk near Earth that eventually coalesced to form the Moon, while ejecting huge amounts of debris completely out of the Earth-Moon system. The fate of that material has been a mystery. However, it is plausible that some of it would have blasted other ancient inner-solar-system worlds such as asteroids, leaving behind telltale signs of impact-heating shock on their surfaces. Subsequent, less violent collisions between asteroids have since ejected some shocked remnants back to Earth in the form of fist-sized meteorites.

    By determining the age of the shock signatures on those meteorites, scientists were able to infer that their origin likely corresponds to the time of the giant impact, and therefore to the age of the Moon.

    The SSERVI research indicates that material accelerated by the giant impact struck Main Belt asteroids at much higher velocities than typical Main Belt collisions. The craters left behind by this bombardment contained an abundance of shocked and melted material with formation ages that provide a characteristic of the ancient giant impact event.

    Evidence that the giant impact produced a large number of kilometer-sized fragments can be inferred from laboratory and numerical impact experiments, the ancient lunar impact record itself, and the numbers and sizes of fragments produced by major Main Belt asteroid collisions.

    Once the team concluded that pieces of the Moon-forming impact hit Main Belt asteroids and made ancient impact age signatures in meteorites, they set out to deduce both the timing and the relative magnitude of the bombardment. By modeling their evolution over time, and fitting the results to ancient impact heating signatures in stony meteorites, the team was able to infer the Moon formed about 4.47 billion years ago, in agreement with many previous estimates.

    These impact signatures also provide insights into the last stages of planet formation in the inner solar system. For example, the team is exploring how they can be used to place new constraints on how many planet formation “leftovers,” many in the form of asteroid-like bodies, still existed in the inner solar system in the aftermath of planet formation. “It is even possible,” Bottke said, “that tiny remnants of the Moon-forming impactor or proto-Earth might still be found within meteorites that show signs of shock heating by giant impact debris. This would allow scientists to explore for the first time the unknown primordial nature of our home world.”

    SwRI scientists Dr. Simone Marchi and Dr. Harold (Hal) Levison also contributed to this work, as well as a team of researchers from the University of Arizona, University of Hawaii, and University of Western Ontario. This research was supported in part by SSERVI at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. SSERVI is funded by the Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters to enable cross-team and interdisciplinary research that pushes forward the boundaries of science and exploration.

    For more information about SSERVI, visit http://sservi.nasa.gov.

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    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

  • richardmitnick 7:12 am on April 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Moon Studies,   

    From U Maryland: “A New View of the Moon’s Formation” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    April 8, 2015
    Media Relations Contact: Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu

    This artist’s rendering shows the collision of two planetary bodies. A collision like this is believed to have created the moon within the first 150 million years after our solar system formed. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Within the first 150 million years after our solar system formed, a giant body roughly the size of Mars struck and merged with Earth, blasting a huge cloud of rock and debris into space. This cloud would eventually coalesce and form the moon.

    For almost 30 years, planetary scientists have been quite happy with this explanation—with one major exception. Although this scenario makes sense when you look at the size of the moon and the physics of its orbit around Earth, things start to break down a little when you compare their isotopic compositions—the geological equivalent of a DNA “fingerprint.” Specifically, Earth and the moon are too much alike.

    The expectation has long been that the moon should carry the isotopic “fingerprint” of the foreign body, which scientists have named Theia. Because Theia came from elsewhere in the solar system, it probably had a much different isotopic fingerprint than early Earth.

    Now, a team of scientists at the University of Maryland has generated a new isotopic fingerprint of the moon that could provide the missing piece of the puzzle. By zeroing in on an isotope of Tungsten present in both the moon and Earth, the UMD team is the first to reconcile the accepted model of the moon’s formation with the unexpectedly similar isotopic fingerprints of both bodies. The results suggest that the impact of Theia into early Earth was so violent, the resulting debris cloud mixed thoroughly before settling down and forming the moon. The findings appear in the April 8, 2015 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

    “The problem is that Earth and the moon are very similar with respect to their isotopic fingerprints, suggesting that they are both ultimately formed from the same material that gathered early in the solar system’s history,” said Richard Walker, a professor of geology at UMD and co-author of the study. “This is surprising, because the Mars-sized body that created the moon is expected to have been very different. So the conundrum is that Earth and the moon shouldn’t be as similar as they are.”

    Several different theories have emerged over the years to explain the similar fingerprints of Earth and the moon. Perhaps the impact created a huge cloud of debris that mixed thoroughly with the Earth and then later condensed to form the moon. Or Theia could have, coincidentally, been isotopically similar to young Earth. A third possibility is that the moon formed from Earthen materials, rather than from Theia, although this would have been a very unusual type of impact.

    The UMD team examined the tungsten isotopic composition of two moon rocks collected by the Apollo 16 mission, including sample 68815, seen here. When corrected for meteoritic additions to Earth and the moon after formation of the moon, the two bodies were found to have identical Tungsten isotopic compositions. Photo: NASA/JSC

    To tease out an explanation, Walker and his team looked to another well-documented phenomenon in the early history of the solar system. Evidence suggests that both Earth and the moon gathered additional material after the main impact, and that Earth collected more of this debris and dust. This new material contained a lot of Tungsten, but relatively little of this was of a lighter isotope known as Tungsten-182. Taking these two observations together, one would expect that Earth would have less Tungsten-182 than the moon.

    Sure enough, when comparing rocks from the moon and Earth, Walker and his team found that the moon has a slightly higher proportion of Tungsten-182. The key, however, is how much.

    “The small, but significant, difference in the Tungsten isotopic composition between Earth and the moon perfectly corresponds to the different amounts of material gathered by Earth and the moon post-impact,” Walker said. “This means that, right after the moon formed, it had exactly the same isotopic composition as Earth’s mantle.”

    This finding supports the idea that the mass of material created by the impact, which later formed the moon, must have mixed together thoroughly before the moon coalesced and cooled. This would explain both the overall similarities in isotopic fingerprints and the slight differences in Tungsten-182.

    It also largely rules out the idea that the Mars-sized body was of similar composition, or that the moon formed from material contained in the pre-impact Earth. In both cases, it would be highly unlikely to see such a perfect correlation between Tungsten-182 and the amounts of material gathered by the moon and Earth post-impact.

    “This result brings us one step closer to understanding the close familial relationship between Earth and the moon,” Walker said. “We still need to work out the details, but it’s clear that our early solar system was a very violent place.”

    In addition to Walker, study authors include UMD geology senior research scientist Igor Puchtel and former UMD geology postdoctoral researcher Mathieu Touboul, now at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France.

    This research was supported by NASA (Award No. NNX13AF83G). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.

    The research paper, Tungsten isotopic evidence for disproportional late accretion to the earth and moon, Mathieu Touboul, Igor Puchtel and Richard Walker, was published on April 8, 2015, in the Advance Online edition of the journal Nature.

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    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

  • richardmitnick 5:49 am on December 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Moon Studies,   

    From SPACE.com: “How Was the Moon Formed?” 2013 

    space-dot-com logo


    After the sun spun to light, the planets of the solar system began to form. But it took another hundred million years for Earth’s moon to spring into existence. There are three theories as to how our planet’s satellite could have been created: the giant impact hypothesis, the co-formation theory and the capture theory.

    Giant impact hypothesis

    This is the prevailing theory supported by the scientific community. Like the other planets, the Earth formed from the leftover cloud of dust and gas orbiting the young sun. The early solar system was a violent place, and a number of bodies were created that never made it to full planetary status. According to the giant impact hypothesis, one of these crashed into Earth not long after the young planet was created.

    Known as Theia, the Mars-size body collided with Earth, throwing vaporized chunks of the young planet’s crust into space. Gravity bound the ejected particles together, creating a moon that is the largest in the solar system in relation to its host planet. This sort of formation would explain why the moon is made up predominantly of lighter elements, making it less dense than Earth — the material that formed it came from the crust, while leaving the planet’s rocky core untouched. As the material drew together around what was left of Theia’s core, it would have centered near Earth’s ecliptic plane, the path the sun travels through the sky, which is where the moon orbits today.

    Co-formation theory

    Moons can also form at the same time as their parent planet. Under such an explanation, gravity would have caused material in the early solar system to draw together at the same time as gravity bound particles together to form Earth. Such a moon would have a very similar composition to the planet, and would explain the moon’s present location. However, although Earth and the moon share much of the same material, the moon is much less dense than our planet, which would likely not be the case if both started with the same heavy elements at their core.

    Capture theory

    Perhaps Earth’s gravity snagged a passing body, as happened with other moons in the solar system, such as the Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos. Under the capture theory, a rocky body formed elsewhere in the solar system could have been drawn into orbit around the Earth. The capture theory would explain the differences in the composition of the Earth and its moon. However, such orbiters are often oddly shaped, rather than being spherical bodies like the moon. Their paths don’t tend to line up with the ecliptic of their parent planet, also unlike the moon.

    Although the co-formation theory and the capture theory both explain some elements of the existence of the moon, they leave many questions unanswered. At present, the giant impact hypothesis seems to cover many of these questions, making it the best model to fit the scientific evidence for how the moon was created.
    Conceptual illustrations of the birth of the moon.







    See the full article, with video, here.

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  • richardmitnick 3:11 pm on November 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Lunar Mission One, Moon Studies,   

    From SPACE.com: “Private Moon Mission Aims to Drill Into Lunar South Pole by 2024” 

    space-dot-com logo


    November 19, 2014
    Mike Wall

    A privately funded robotic moon mission intends to drill deep beneath the lunar surface in 2024, both to advance understanding of the solar system and to inspire future generations to get more involved in space science and exploration.

    Artist’s concept of the robotic Lunar Mission One touching down at the moon’s south pole in 2024.
    Credit: Rawcut Television/Lunar Mission One

    If all goes according to plan, the newly announced Lunar Mission One will drill at least 65 feet (20 meters) — and perhaps as much as 330 feet (100 m) — underground at the moon’s south pole in 2024, collecting samples that should shed light on the formation of the Earth and moon, as well as the feasibility of a manned lunar outpost in the area, project organizers said.

    Going so deep underground will give scientists a look at pristine ancient rock untouched by cosmic radiation or meteorite impacts over the eons, the mission representatives added.

    “Lunar Mission One will make a huge contribution to our understanding of the origins of our planet and the moon, and will inspire a generation to learn more about space, science and engineering, in the same way that my generation was inspired by the Apollo moon landings,” David Iron, founder of Lunar Missions Ltd. and the Lunar Missions Trust, said in a statement.

    While the unmanned Lunar Mission One was just announced publicly Tuesday evening (Nov. 18), it has been in the works for the past seven years, project officials said.

    Artist’s concept of the privately funded Lunar Mission One drilling deep into the moon’s south pole. Mission representatives hope to collect samples from at least 65 feet (20 meters) underground.
    Credit: Rawcut Television/Lunar Mission One

    The United Kingdom-based mission aims to pay for its ambitious activities in several different ways, starting with a Kickstarter campaign that launched on Tuesday. Organizers hope the crowdfunding effort will raise about $950,000, which would fund initial development operations.

    People will also be able to purchase “digital memory boxes” — giving participants the chance to contribute to a time capsule that Lunar Mission One plans to bury as part of its work at the south pole of the moon. This time capsule will also contain a record of life on Earth and a chronicle of human history and civilization, project organizers said.

    Sales of digital memory boxes will continue for years, and mission representatives are counting on big international participation. Market research suggests that 1 percent of people around the world who can afford a digital memory box will buy one, potentially resulting in revenues of about $4.7 billion, mission representatives said.

    Any surplus money raised will be put into a charitable trust dedicated to funding future space science and exploration activities, the organizers added.

    Lunar Missions Ltd. runs Lunar Mission One with the assistance of a number of partner organizations, including RAL Space (part of the United Kingdom’s Science and Technology Facilities Council), University College London, The Open University in the United Kingdom and the Institute of Education in London.

    “Lunar Mission One is both ambitious and innovative, demonstrating an exciting way of enabling lunar exploration,” RAL Space Director Richard Holdaway said in a statement. “As well as direct exploration benefits, the mission will have longer-term advantages, including technological advances and knowledge.”

    To learn more about Lunar Mission One, go to http://www.lunarmissionone.com.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:26 pm on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Moon Studies   

    From NOVA: “NASA Hopes to Test Mining Moon Water for Future Manned Missions” 



    28 Oct 2014
    Bridget Reed Morawski

    Two proposed missions would scour the moon’s upper crust for deposits of ice that may support moon bases.

    We may soon be one sip of water closer to living on the moon, at least if NASA’s plans pan out. The space agency has announced their intention to send two new missions to the moon to analyze and mine pockets of frozen water. The projects, nicknamed Lunar Flashlight and Resource Prospector Mission (RPM), will launch in late 2017 and 2018, respectively.

    The lunar poles are thought to harbor massive reserves of ice.

    Scientists are seeking to determine if future manned lunar outposts could exploit the deposits as a resource for drinking water. Here’s Mike Wall reporting for Space.com:

    “If you’re going to have humans on the moon and you need water for drinking, breathing, rocket fuel, anything you want, it’s much, much cheaper to live off the land than it is to bring everything with you,” said Lunar Flashlight principal investigator Barbara Cohen, of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

    Lunar Flashlight will be making approximately 80 rotations around the moon’s atmosphere, hovering a mere 12 miles over the lunar surface. The intent of the mission is to find, measure, and map pockets of ice in darkened craters within and around the lunar poles.

    NASA Lunar Flashlight
    NASA/Lunar Flashlight

    The Lunar Flashlight mission would use a solar sail to carry the spacecraft along its orbital route. According to Cohen, the device would begin to expand upon reaching space, from “the size of a cereal box” into an 860-square foot solar sail. It will take Lunar Flashlight six months to reach the moon and another year to slowly descend to the 12-mile-high research orbit.
    LCROSS, an earlier NASA mission that looked for water on the moon, was a relatively low-budget affair.

    While Lunar Flashlight will only observe easily accessible deposits of water, RPM will operate on the surface of the moon. The rover will be equipped with drills and other materials to extract samples from 3.3 feet below the moon’s surface. It will chart water concentrations with an on-board neutron spectrometer and a near-infrared spectrometer. It’ll have to work fast, though, as it’s lifespan is expected to be only one week as it crawls from the near side of the moon into permanently dark lunar territory.

    Neither the Lunar Flashlight nor RPM projects have been approved by NASA yet, but if they are accepted, the knowledge could bring us closer to greater understanding the moon’s water resources—and what we might be able to do with them should we return.

    Two proposed NASA missions would lay more groundwork for manned lunar bases.

    See the full article here.

    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

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