In a breakthrough discovery, NASA scientists have found volatile compounds that caused fire fountains on the ancient moon’s surface. Yes, the moon once had lava fountain eruptions, similar to the ones we see today in Iceland and Hawaii. Findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Carbon monoxide drove fire fountains
Fire fountains occur when volatile compounds get mixed in with erupting lava. The volatiles turn into gas as the lava rises from the depth, said Alberto Saal of Brown University and co-author of the study. NASA said the expansion of gases caused lava to blast into the air soon after reaching the surface. Scientists found that the lava in lunar fire fountains contained a huge amount of carbon.
The carbon combined with oxygen to produce carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which was responsible for fire fountains on ancient moon’s surface. To conduct the study, Saal and his colleagues analyzed glass beads brought back from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. In particular, they studied samples that contained “melt inclusions, tiny dots of molten magma that became trapped within crystals of olivine.” The crystals trap gases in the magma before they can escape.
NASA says early moon’s composition was similar to that of Earth
They said the carbon would have degassed before any other volatile compounds, meaning it degassed deep under the surface. Hydrogen and other volatiles degassed later when magma reached near the surface. NASA said carbon was driving the eruption of fire fountains in early stages. The U.S. space agency believes that the composition of the early moon was quite similar to the early Earth.
Volatile compounds on the ancient moon were similar to the lava that formed the ocean floor of our planet. That’s in line with the current theories of moon formation. According to the theory, the moon was formed when a Mars-sized object hit the Earth early in its history. The ejected debris eventually came together to form our moon.