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Internal structure of the Moon

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Main article: Internal structure of the Moon
Moon Schematic Cross Section
Schematic illustration of the internal structure of the Moon
MkpauloAdded by Mkpaulo

The Moon is a differentiated body, being composed of a geochemically distinct crust, mantle, and core. This structure is believed to have resulted from the fractional crystallization of a magma ocean shortly after its formation, at about 4.4 billion years ago[1]. The energy required to melt the outer portion of the Moon is commonly attributed to a giant impact event that is postulated to have formed the Earth-Moon system, and the subsequent reaccretion of material in Earth orbit. Crystallization of this magma ocean would have given rise to a mafic mantle and a plagioclase-rich crust (see Origin and geologic evolution below).

Geochemical mapping from orbit implies that the crust of the Moon is largely anorthositic in composition,[2] consistent with the magma ocean hypothesis. In terms of elements, the crust is composed primarily of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminium. Based on geophysical techniques, its thickness is estimated to be on average about 50 km.[3]

Partial melting within the mantle of the Moon gave rise to the eruption of mare basalts on the lunar surface. Analyses of these basalts indicate that the mantle is composed predominantly of the minerals olivine, orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene, and that the lunar mantle is more iron rich than that of the Earth. Some lunar basalts contain high abundances of titanium (present in the mineral ilmenite), suggesting that the mantle is highly heterogeneous in composition. Moonquakes have been found to occur deep within the mantle of the Moon about a thousand kilometres below the surface. These occur with monthly periodicities and are related to tidal stresses caused by the eccentric orbit of the Moon about the Earth.[3]

The Moon has a mean density of 3 346.4 kg/m³, making it the second densest moon in the Solar System after Io. Nevertheless, several lines of evidence imply that the core of the Moon is small, with a radius of about 350 km or less.[3] This corresponds to only about 20% the size of the Moon, in contrast to about 50% as is the case for most other terrestrial bodies. The composition of the lunar core is not well constrained, but most believe that it is composed of metallic iron alloyed with a small amount of sulfur and nickel. Analyses of the Moon's time-variable rotation indicate that the core is at least partly molten.[4]


  1. Timing of crystallization of the lunar magma ocean constrained by the oldest zircon, Nemchin, Timms, Pidgeon, Geisler, Reddy & Meyer, published in Nature 25 January, 2009, latest access 4 February 2009
  2. Lucey, P.; et al. (2006). "Understanding the lunar surface and space-Moon interactions". Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60: 83–219. doi:10.2138/rmg.2006.60.2. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wieczorek, M.; et al. (2006). "The constitution and structure of the lunar interior". Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60: 221–364. doi:10.2138/rmg.2006.60.3. 
  4. Williams, J.G.; Turyshev, S.G.; Boggs, D.H.; Ratcliff, J.T. (2006). "Lunar laser ranging science: Gravitational physics and lunar interior and geodesy". Advances in Space Research 37 (1): 6771. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.05.013, Retrieved on 12 April 2007. 
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