The lunar magma ocean

The first rocks brought back by Apollo 11 were basalts. Although the mission landed on Mare Tranquillitatis, a few millimetric fragments of rocks coming from the highlands were picked up. These are composed mainly of plagioclase feldspar; some fragments were composed exclusively of anorthositic plagioclase. The identification of these mineral fragments led to the bold hypothesis that a large portion of the Moon was once molten, and that the crust formed by fractional crystallization of this magma ocean. A natural outcome of the giant impact event is that the materials that reaccreted to form the Moon must have been hot. Current models predict that a large portion of the Moon would have been molten shortly after the Moon formed, with estimates for the depth of this magma ocean ranging from about 500 km to full moon melting. Crystallization of this magma ocean would have given rise to a differentiated body with a compositionally distinct crust and mantle and accounts for the major suites of lunar rocks. As crystallization of the lunar magma ocean proceeded, minerals such as olivine and pyroxene would have precipitated and sank to form the lunar mantle. After crystallization was about three-quarters complete, anorthositic plagioclase would have begun to crystallize, and because of its low density, float, forming an anorthositic crust. Importantly, elements that are incompatible (i.e., those that partition preferentially into the liquid phase) would have been progressively concentrated into the magma as crystallization progressed, forming a KREEP-rich magma that initially should have been sandwiched between the crust and mantle. Evidence for this scenario comes from the highly anorthositic composition of the lunar highland crust, as well as the existence of KREEP-rich materials.Mare Tranquillitatis (Latin for Sea of Tranquility) is a lunar mare that sits within the Tranquillitatis basin on the Moon. The mare

material within the basin consists of basalt formed in the intermediate to young age group of the Upper Imbrian epoch. The surrounding mountains are thought to be of the Lower Imbrian epoch, but the actual basin is probably Pre-Nectarian. The basin has irregular margins and lacks a defined multiple-ringed structure. The irregular topography in and near this basin results from the intersection of the Tranquillitatis, Nectaris, Crisium, Fecunditatis, and Serenitatis basins with two throughgoing rings of the Procellarum basin. Palus Somni, on the northeastern rim of the mare, is filled with the basalt that spilled over from Tranquillitatis. This Mare has a slight bluish tint relative to the rest of the moon and stands out quite well when color is processed and extracted from multiple photographs. The color is likely due to higher metal content in the basaltic soil or rocks.Plagioclase is an important series of tectosilicate minerals within the feldspar family. Rather than referring to a particular mineral with a specific chemical composition, plagioclase is a solid solution series, more properly known as the plagioclase feldspar series (from the Greek "oblique fracture", in reference to its two cleavage angles). This was first shown by the German mineralogist Johann Friedrich Christian Hessel (17961872) in 1826. The series ranges from albite to anorthite endmembers (with respective compositions NaAlSi3O8 to CaAl2Si2O8), where sodium and calcium atoms can substitute for each other in the mineral's crystal lattice structure. Plagioclase in hand samples is often identified by its polysynthetic twinning or 'record-groove' effect. Plagioclase is a major constituent mineral in the Earth's crust, and is consequently an important diagnostic tool in petrology for identifying the composition, origin and evolution of igneous rocks. Plagioclase is also a major constituent of rock in the highlands of the Earth's moon.