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Morning Moon | Orient Point, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Artist's Description

The Moon is a differentiated body: it has a geochemically distinct crust, mantle, and core. The Moon has a solid iron-rich inner core with a radius of 240 km (150 mi) and a fluid outer core primarily made of liquid iron with a radius of roughly 300 km (190 mi). Around the core is a partially molten boundary layer with a radius of about 500 km (310 mi). This structure is thought to have developed through the fractional crystallization of a global magma ocean shortly after the Moon’s formation 4.5 billion years ago. Crystallization of this magma ocean would have created a mafic mantle from the precipitation and sinking of the minerals olivine, clinopyroxene, and orthopyroxene; after about three-quarters of the magma ocean had crystallised, lower-density plagioclase minerals could form and float into a crust on top. The final liquids to crystallise would have been initially sandwiched between the crust and mantle, with a high abundance of incompatible and heat-producing elements. Consistent with this, geochemical mapping from orbit shows the crust is mostly anorthosite, and moon rock samples of the flood lavas erupted on the surface from partial melting in the mantle confirm the mafic mantle composition, which is more iron rich than that of Earth. Geophysical techniques suggest that the crust is on average circa 50 km (31 mi) thick.
The Moon is the second densest satellite in the Solar System after Io.However, the inner core of the Moon is small, with a radius of about 350 km (220 mi) or less, around 20% of the radius of the Moon. Its composition is not well constrained, but it is probably metallic iron alloyed with a small amount of sulfur and nickel; analyses of the Moon’s time-variable rotation indicate that it is at least partly molten. Read more

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