Study Findings: Fusible Mantle Cumulates Trigger Young Mare Volcanism on the Cooling Moon

Image (Credit): The Moon’s snakelike Schroeter’s Valley, believed to have been created by lava flowing over the surface. (NASA/Johnson)

Science Advances abstract:

[China’s] Chang’E-5 (CE5) mission has demonstrated that lunar volcanism was still active until two billion years ago, much younger than the previous isotopically dated lunar basalts. How the small Moon retained enough heat to drive such late volcanism is unknown, particularly as the CE5 mantle source was anhydrous and depleted in heat-producing elements. We conduct fractional crystallization and mantle melting simulations that show that mantle melting point depression by the presence of fusible, easily melted components could trigger young volcanism. Enriched in calcium oxide and titanium dioxide compared to older Apollo magmas, the young CE5 magma was, thus, sourced from the overturn of the late-stage fusible cumulates of the lunar magma ocean. Mantle melting point depression is the first mechanism to account for young volcanism on the Moon that is consistent with the newly returned CE5 basalts.

Citation: Su, B., Yuan, J., Chen, Y., et al. Fusible mantle cumulates trigger young mare volcanism on the cooling Moon. Science Advances (2022).

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