A new study shows that volcanic “fire fountains” erupting from the surface of the moon were most likely fueled by carbon monoxide gas.
Discovery News reports that scientists have re-analyzed the orange and green glass beads discovered in soil samples brought back from the moon in the early 1970s using modern analysis techniques.
The glass beads are “thought to be the product of fire-fountain eruptions, in which a jet of basaltic lava erupts through a vent, spattering droplets of lava that cool quickly to form glass,” explains Bruno Scaillet of the University of Orleans in France in an article in this week’s Nature Geoscience.
The lunar volcanic glasses are thought to be the product of fire-fountain eruptions, in which a jet of basaltic lava erupts through a vent, spattering droplets of lava that cool quickly to form glass.
Current research suggests that the moon was formed when a planetary body – around the size of Mars – known as Theia crashed into Earth when the solar system was young. Scientists believe that for a long time, the moon’s surface was different from the unmoving landscape of today.
In the beginning, the lunar surface was an active hotbed of magma that bubbled up from below to spew into the air like a fountain of fire, reports Space.com. Scientists, who have long been unsure of what drove these explosions, now believe the reason behind the eruptions was carbon monoxide.
While water and sulfur would have contributed to the fiery fountains, “the main driver is carbon,” said Alberto Saal, co-author of the study and geologist at Brown University in Providence.
The carbon is the one that is producing the large spectacle. With a little bit of water, with a little bit of sulfur — but the main driver is carbon.
Saal explains that this finding suggests the early moon was similar to the makeup of Earth. The elements “are very similar to the lava that formed the ocean floor of the Earth,” he said.
All these volatile elements [… ] are in concentrations that are very similar to the lava that formed the ocean floor of the Earth.