Scientists Calculated Temperature Inside Moon to Reveal its Inner Structure

Scientists Calculated Temperature Inside Moon to Reveal its Inner Structure

Scientists Calculated Temperature Inside Moon to Reveal its Inner Structure
Image Credits: SciTechDaily

Humanity has taken a massive step in its quest to unravel the secrets of the inner structure of the moon.

Despite all the technological advancements in the field of astronomy, scientists have failed to extract much information about the inner structure of the natural satellite of our planet. Ananya Mallik, a URI Assistant Professor of Geosciences at the University of Rhode Island, performed certain experiments with the attention of making some substantial progress in this domain and it seems that her efforts have led to something amazing. She tried to determine the temperature at the boundary of the Moon’s mantle and core and found that it stays between 1,300o C and 1,470o C. Interesting thing is that previous estimates had suggested the temperatures to be around 800o C. Mallik explained the significance of her work in the following words:

“In order to understand the interior structure of the Moon today, we needed to nail down the thermal state better. Now we have the two anchor points — the core-mantle boundary and the surface temperature measured by Apollo — and that will help us create a temperature profile through the Moon. We need that temperature profile to determine the internal state, structure, and composition of the Moon.”

Molten Material

Mallik mentioned that 5-30% of the material at the core-mantle boundary of the moon is in a liquid state and that’s the question that they must answer in order to move forward. For this reason, she conducted a series of experiments at the Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry and Geophysics by using a multi-anvil device. This special instrument allowed her to exert the high pressures found deep inside the moon. She began her work by developing a small sample of moon-like material. Once this was done, she squeezed the material to a pressure of about 45,000 times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure and continued to heat it until it was melted partially. She said,

“The goal was to determine what temperature range would produce a 5 to 30 percent melt, which would tell us the temperature range of the core-mantle boundary.”   

Temperature Profile of Moon

Scientists believe that determining a narrower temperature range is a massive achievement as it allows them to build a more precise temperature profile of the Moon. This will enable them to figure out a profile of the minerals that make up the mantle from its crust to the core. The composition of the inner structure of the moon is extremely important for a better understanding of the satellite. Mallik compared the composition of the Earth with that of the moon by saying,

“The histories of the Earth and Moon have been intertwined since the beginning. In fact, both are the product of a great collision between proto-Earth and an approximately Mars-sized body that occurred over 4.5 billion years ago. So to understand our Earth better, we have to know our nearest neighbor because we all had a common start. Earth is complicated. Any similarity in the composition between Earth and the Moon can give us insight into how these two planetary bodies were formed, what were the energetics of the collision, and how elements were partitioned between them.”

Role of Plate Tectonics and Future Goals

While comparing the planet with the moon, Mallik mentioned that the process of plate tectonics is responsible for almost all the major changes on the Earth ranging from the distribution of continents to the regulation of long-term climate and from the topography of Earth surface to the origin of life. The fact that researchers haven’t been able to find any signs of plate tectonics on the moon might be the reason for all these differences between these heavenly bodies. The interesting thing is that all of the celestial bodies in our solar system had a common start but there are marked differences in all of them. Mallik elaborated that it’s the same reason for why we study Mars and Venus as they are our next closest neighbors.

She now wants to determine the density of the molten material at the core-mantle boundary so that the temperature range could be refined even more. Ultimately, she aims to combine her findings with computational methods to develop a complete temperature profile of the inner structure of the moon.  

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