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The Moon is a fascinating celestial object; being one of the most recognizable and prominent with the naked eye. Due to its unique nature and interesting features there are many questions that often arise as to its origin, astronomical importance and composition.
If you’ve been glancing up at the night sky and wondered what the moon is made of, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be taking a look at its composition in this article here today.
What Is The Moon?
The Moon is a celestial body that orbits the Earth. In fact, the Moon is the suns only permanent organic satellite.
It is widely cited that the Moon formed around 4.5 billion years ago, and did so following the formation of planet Earth. Whilst a debated topic of debate, the proceeding thought is that the Moon was created following the collision of Earth and another celestial body known as Theia. However, recent research into moon rock, while not completely disregarding the Theia hypothesis, has highlighted that the Moon could in fact be slightly older than we originally anticipated.
Behind the Sun, the Moon is actually the second-brightest routinely visible celestial object in the sky (when observed from Earth). The Moons surface is dark but appears light due to reflecting light. Fascinatingly the Moon’s gravitational influence is what causes ocean tides here on planet Earth.
The Moon follows a continuous orbital path and rotation of Earth, showing on the near and same side. When observing the Moon, you can see on its near side volcanic maria, distinct crustal ridges and of course the distinguishable impact craters.
How Do We Know What The Moon Is Made Of?
The Moon’s composition has been analysed for over a 50 years. Luna 2, a Soviet spacecraft, was the first official landing in 1959. From there, NASA have successfully completed missions in 1968, 1969 and 1972. Since then, the moon has only been visited by one unmanned spacecraft.
It is during these missions that Lunar Rocks were collected and returned for Analysis here on Earth. These rocks have been analysed to provide us with an understanding of how the Moon originally formed, its internal structure, and some aspects of his history.
As the rocks were taken from the Surface, the Crust is the most understood layer. This information along with other relevant data has been extrapolated to form hypothesis and predictions into what the inner core layers consist of.
What Is The Moon Made Of?
The Moon has three compositional layers: Surface (Crust), Lunar Core and the Mantle. While we have have been able to decipher what makes up the surface (crust) due to the analysis of Moon rocks aforementioned, the internal composition of the moon (the Lunar Core and Mantle) are more of a mystery. Through various techniques including analysis of the Moon’s time-variable rotation, scientists have been able to predict the composition and fluidity of the inner cores.
The outermost layer of the Moon, the surface which is what we can see, is known as the crust. This layer is 50km deep and is the most studied section that scientists have been able to analyse. The crust consists mainly of the following elements: Oxygen, Silicon, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, and Aluminum. However, Titanium, Uranium, Thorium, Potassium and Hydrogen are also present, just in smaller amounts.
The central layer of the Moon is known as the Lunar Core, which is actually comprised of three separate parts:
- Inner Layer,
- Fluid Outer Layer
- Boundary Layer).
The Inner layer is understood to be around 240 kilometres (150 mi) in size and consists of solid metallic iron, with a small amount of Sulfer and Nickel.
The Fluid Outer Layer component is believed to be 300 kilometres (190 mi) in radius and primarily liquid and molten in nature. Again this is believed to be mostly metallic iron.
The Boundary Layer is believed to have a radius of around 500 kilometres (310 mi) and is partially molten metalic Iron and other minor elements.
Sandwiched in between the core and the Surface crust, the Mantle is the largest region of the Moon. It extends all the way from the core, to about 50 km below the surface.
Scientists believe that the mantle is a result of various minerals reacting amount one another. These include Olivine, Orthopyroxene and Clinopyroxene.
So in Summary, the Moon is predominately made up of Iron (if we are to go with the hypothesis from the scientific community). While we only really know the composition of the outer most layer, various techniques have given us good indications as to what lies beneath.
While we cannot be 100% accurate, the Moon is believed to be a predominantly Solid and Fluid Iron Rich mass, infused with a number of various other trace elements.