Researchers from Brown University have discovered traces of a chemical commonly found on Earth that point to the moon's violent volcanic history.
Recent research has shown that the surface of the moon in its early days was once highly volcanically active, with exploding lava gushers dotting the surface. According to a report from Space.com, a new study of volcanic glass deposits on the surface of the moon explains how its geology is not so different from Earth’s.
It is widely held that a Mars-sized object smashed into the Earth billions of years ago, resulting in the creation of the moon we all know today. The surface of the moon was very different in its early days; instead of the pale, rocky surface covered in craters, it was alive with magma geysers that shot into the sky like “Old Faithful.”
Now, researchers have found traces of a common chemical that all but confirm the moon’s volcanic past: carbon monoxide. According to Alberto Saal, a geologist from Brown University, “the carbon is the one that is producing the largest spectacle. With a little bit of water, with a little bit of sulfur, but the main driver is carbon.” With carbon monoxide in the picture, scientists were able to paint a picture of volcanism on the moon that bore striking similarities to Earth’s volcanic history.
They found traces of carbon monoxide in the volcanic glass deposits on the moon, suggesting that carbon was widely distributed across the body. The team deduced that the carbon reacted with oxygen to create carbon monoxide as the magma rose.
Saal says the reactions happening on the moon were similar to opening a can of soda – as liquid rock migrated from the center of the moon to the surface, it released large amounts of pressurized gas along with some of the magma.
Carbon monoxide was the missing piece to the puzzle in explaining the moon’s violent geologic past, and researchers have a much better understanding of what drove much of the volcanism on the early moon.