What is the Moon Made Of?

by Fraser Cain on November 3, 2008

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The composition of the Moon is a bit of a mystery. Although we know a lot about what the surface of the Moon is made of, scientists can only guess at what the internal composition of the Moon is. Here’s what we think the Moon is made of.

Like the Earth, the Moon has layers. The innermost layer is the lunar core. It only accounts for about 20% of the diameter of the Moon. Scientists think that the lunar core is made of metallic iron, with small amounts of sulfur and nickel. Astronomers know that the core of the Moon is probably at least partly molten.

Outside the core is the largest region of the Moon, called the mantle. The lunar mantle extends up to a distance of only 50 km below the surface of the Moon. Scientists believe that the mantle of the Moon is largely composed of the minerals olivine, orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene. It’s also believed to be more iron-rich than the Earth’s mantle.

The outermost layer of the Moon is called the crust, which extends down to a depth of 50 km. This is the layer of the Moon that scientists have gathered the most information about. The crust of the Moon is composed mostly of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. There are also trace elements like titanium, uranium, thorium, potassium and hydrogen.

Want to compare the Moon to other objects in the Solar System? Here’s what the Earth is made of, and here’s what Mars is made of.

Want more information about the Moon? Here’s NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Science page. And here’s NASA’s Solar System Exploration Guide.

You can listen to a very interesting podcast about the formation of the Moon from Astronomy Cast, Episode 17: Where Did the Moon Come From?

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

rhett dennison-smith February 5, 2009 at 6:38 PM

it is really cool to see what the moon is made of and what it lookes like

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