Evidence for an early wet Moon from experimental crystallization of the lunar magma ocean

Yanhao Lin, Elodie J. Tronche, Edgar S. Steenstra, Wim van Westrenen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Moon is thought to have been covered initially by a deep magma ocean, its gradual solidification leading to the formation of the plagioclase-rich highland crust. We performed a high-pressure, high-temperature experimental study of lunar mineralogical and geochemical evolution during magma ocean solidification that yields constraints on the presence of water in the earliest lunar interior. In the experiments, a deep layer containing both olivine and pyroxene is formed in the first ∼450% of crystallization, β-quartz forms towards the end of crystallization, and the last per cent of magma remaining is extremely iron rich. In dry experiments, plagioclase appears after 68 vol.% solidification and yields a floatation crust with a thickness of ∼468 km, far above the observed average of 34-43 km based on lunar gravity. The volume of plagioclase formed during crystallization is significantly less in water-bearing experiments. Using the relationship between magma water content and the resulting crustal thickness in the experiments, and considering uncertainties in initial lunar magma ocean depth, we estimate that the Moon may have contained at least 270 to 1,650 ppm water at the time of magma ocean crystallization, suggesting the Earth-Moon system was water-rich from the start.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-18
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


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