Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Moon may harbour alien minerals

27 May 2013, 17:00

Paris - Minerals found in craters on the Moon may be remnants of asteroids that slammed into it and not, as long believed, the satellite's innards exposed by such impacts, a study said on Sunday.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, cast doubt on the little we knew of what the Moon is actually composed of.

It had long been thought that meteoroids vaporise on impact with large celestial bodies.

Unusual minerals like spinel and olivine found in many lunar craters, but rarely on the Moon's surface, were therefore attributed to the excavation of sub-surface lunar layers by asteroid hits.

Olivine and spinel are common components of asteroids and meteorites, and have been found on the floors and around the central peaks of lunar craters like Copernicus, Theophilus and Tycho that are around 100km in diameter.

Rare gemstones

A team from China and the US simulated the formation of Moon craters and found that at impact velocities under 12km/s a projectile may survive the impact, though fragmented and deformed.

"We conclude that some unusual minerals observed in the central peaks of many lunar impact craters could be exogenic [external] in origin and may not be indigenous to the Moon," they wrote.

Co-author Jay Melosh from Purdue University in Indiana, said the finding answers the conundrum exposed by earlier studies which said craters the size of Copernicus were not big enough to have dredged up the contents of the Moon's deep, interior mantle.

"It also warns planetary scientists not to use the composition of the central peaks of craters as a guide to the interior of the Moon, whose dominant mineral might not be olivine," he said.

On Earth, spinel and olivine create rare gemstones like peridot.

In an article commenting on the study, Erik Asphaug of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, said the theory meant that material excavated from Earth by large impacts during the planet's early days may still be found on the Moon.

The scattered material was known to have hit the Moon at velocities as slow as 2km/s and should have survived, if the study's assumptions are correct.

This suggested yet another explanation for the existence of spinels on the Moon, said Asphaug: They came from Earth.

"Even more provocative is the suggestion that we might someday find Earth's protobiological materials, no longer available on our geologically active and repeatedly recycled planet, in dry storage up in the lunar 'attic'.

"Certainly, the potential of finding early Earth material is emerging as one of the primary motivations for a return to the Moon by human astronauts in our ongoing search for the origin of life."

Unlike the Earth's crust, which is repeatedly recycled through the process of plate tectonics, the Moon's hard crust dates back billions of years, offering clues to the formation of the solar system, including Earth.


Join in the conversation on our Facebook page. Also get the latest news by following us on Twitter. 

Tags astronomy

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Mudavadi given permission to join...

Musalia Mudavadi has been ghranted permission by his party to join the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...