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March 15 2013

Lunar impacts created seas of molten rock


Early in the Moon’s history an ocean of molten rock covered its entire surface. As that lunar magma ocean cooled over millions of years, it differentiated to form the Moon’s crust and mantle. But according to a new analysis by planetary scientists from Brown University, this wasn’t the last time the Moon’s surface was melted on a massive scale.

The research, led by graduate student William Vaughan, shows that the impact event that formed the Orientale basin on the Moon’s western edge and far side produced a sea of melted rock 220 miles across and at least six miles deep. Similar seas of impact melt were probably present at various times in at least 30 other large impact basins on the Moon.

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