Dynamo At Moon’s Heart Once Powered Magnetic Field Equal To Earth’s

Article written: 15 Apr , 2017
Updated: 28 Apr , 2017

When the Apollo astronauts returned to Earth, they came bearing 380.96 kilograms (839.87 lb) of Moon rocks. From the study of these samples, scientists learned a great deal about the Moon’s composition, as well as its history of formation and evolution. For example, the fact that some of these rocks were magnetized revealed that roughly 3 billion years ago, the Moon had a magnetic field.

Much like Earth, this field would have been the result of a dynamo effect in the Moon’s core. But until recently, scientists have been unable to explain how the Moon could maintain such a dynamo effect for so long. But thanks to a new study by a team of scientists from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, we might finally have a answer.

To recap, the Earth’s magnetic core is an integral part of what keeps our planet habitable. Believed to be the result of a liquid outer core that rotates in the opposite direction as the planet, this field protects the surface from much of the Sun’s radiation. It also ensures that our atmosphere is not slowly stripped away by solar wind, which is what happened with Mars.

The Moon rocks returned by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Credit: NASA

For the sake of their study, which was recently published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the ARES team sought to determine how a molten, churning core could generate a magnetic field on the Moon. While scientists have understood how the Moon’s core could have powered such a field in the past, they have been unclear as to how it could have been maintained it for such a long time.

Towards this end, the ARES team considered multiple lines of geochemical and geophysical evidence to put constraints on the core’s composition. As Kevin Righter, the lead of the JSC’s high pressure experimental petrology lab and the lead author of the study, explained in a NASA press release:

“Our work ties together physical and chemical constraints and helps us understand how the moon acquired and maintained its magnetic field – a difficult problem to tackle for any inner solar system body. We created several synthetic core compositions based on the latest geochemical data from the moon, and equilibrated them at the pressures and temperatures of the lunar interior.”

Specifically, the ARES scientists conducted simulations of how the core would have evolved over time, based on varying levels of nickel, sulfur and carbon content. This consisted of preparing powders or iron, nickel, sulfur and carbon and mixing them in the proper proportions – based on recent analyses of Apollo rock samples.

Artist concept illustration of the internal structure of the moon. Credit: NOAJ

Once these mixtures were prepared, they subjected them to heat and pressure conditions consistent with what exists at the Moon’s core. They also varied these temperatures and pressures based on the possibility that the Moon underwent changes in temperature during its early and later history – i.e. hotter during its early history and cooler later on.

What they found was that a lunar core composed of iron/nickel that had a small amount of sulfur and carbon – specifically 0.5% sulfur and 0.375% carbon by weight – fit the bill. Such a core would have a high melting point and would have likely started crystallizing early in the Moon’s history, thus providing the necessary heat to drive the dynamo and power a lunar magnetic field.

This field would have eventually died out after heat flow led the core to cool, thus arresting the dynamo effect. Not only do these results provide an explanation for all the paleomagnetic and seismic data we currently have on the Moon, it is also consistent with everything we know about the Moon’s geochemical and geophysical makeup.

Prior to this, core models tended to place the Moon’s sulfur content much higher. This would mean that it had a much lower melting point, and would have meant crystallization could not have occurred until much more recently in its history. Other theories have been proposed, ranging from sheer forces to impacts providing the necessary heat to power a dynamo.

Cutaway of the Moon, showing its differentiated interior. Credit: NASA/SSERVI

However, the ARES team’s study provides a much simpler explanation, and one which happens to fit with all that we know about the Moon. Naturally, additional studies will be needed before there is any certainty on the issue. No doubt, this will first require that human beings establish a permanent outpost on the Moon to conduct research.

But it appears that for the time being, one of the deeper mysteries of the Earth-Moon system might be resolved at last.

Further Reading: NASA, Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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7 Responses

  1. BlackWolfStanding says

    The Moon when first formed was spinning fast in the same direction it rotated around the Earth. It didn’t really matter if the core was spinning too. The whole rotation was fast enough to generate the field. But the moon was out of balance, it also got into a tidal lock with the Earth. When it slowed, that’s when the magnetic field died.
    Now if it’s internal structure was spinning fast, it would have still slowed to a stop relatively fast due to the lack of mass causing it to keep spinning against the friction of the surface. Hence, both scenarios are very plausible.

  2. btraymd says

    It is commendable that this topic is even addressed. In view of all recent data from every NASA mission it is an appropriate topic.
    The overwhelming dominance of electromagnetic forces in the formation and function of galaxies, stars and our solar system is becoming impossible to ignore.
    These forces are being confirmed by every observation and those with advanced knowledge in plasma physics and electrical engineering are interpreting the data in a clear and scientifically sound manner. Clearcut interpretation of the data makes it clear that gravity and the subsequent “standard model” based on explosions and gravity is incorrect in almost every detail.
    Exquisite and irrefutable electromagnetic explanations for the structure and function of the sun (and therefore all stars) have essentially invalidated the model that theorizes nuclear fusion at the core as the source of the sun’s energy. For example, we can now refer to “photospheric granules” (whatever that means) as Anode Tufts. It is overwhelmingly clear from all recent data that stars, including our sun, are electromagnetically connected and form along “filaments”. These “filaments” defy the standard gravity-based standard model but were predicted by the electromagnetic based theory detailed by Scott and Thornhill. In short, the “filaments are intra and inter galactic Birkeland currents. Star formation occurs at “Z Pinches” along the currents. This concept is a well known principle of electrical engineering which refers to the constriction of the current by it’s accompanying magnetic field. Since the Birkeland currents (as recently modeled by Scott) are double layered plasma sheaths, it follows that star surfaces consist of plasma and magnetic fields. Stars are powered from the flow of charged particles that originate outside the galaxy. This was confirmed by the IBEX mission and reported in the Astrophysics Journal , Oct 2015, Supplement. They identified massive “rivers of hydrogen” flowing into the sun from extra galactic sources.
    The nature of the solar system including the planets and their moons has been exquisitely shown to be that of a transformer. It’s origin and current function follow electrical principles. Dr. Mike Clarage from the Safire Project has clearly explained this concept.
    But for the diehards that cannot accept what is becoming an obvious truth, gravity cannot be completely discarded as a relevant force. It is almost ironic that Thornhill has presented the first scientifically sound explanation for the force of gravity, which has completely evaded the cosmologic and astrophysical communities, despite their religious dependence upon it. In his presentation, “The Long Road to Understanding Gravity” he identifies gravity as weak electromagnetic force that occurs due to subatomic dipole alignment. But this force is INFINITELY small compared to the massive electromagnetic forces responsible for star and galaxy formation…..the force difference is on the magnitude of 10 to the 36 power.
    The good news is that the use of electromagnetic forces to account for star and galaxy formation eliminates the need for dark matter, dark energy, black holes, accretion discs, singularities, neutron stars and the whole litany of unproven and unobserved concepts upon which the standard model depends. Even the concept of “red shift” upon which the “”big bang” hypothesis depends has been invalidated. Halton Arp’s data as reported in his book “Seeing Red” have been confirmed. Red shift is an intrinsic property of quasars based on their age and not a property dependent on velocity.
    This article is a sneak preview of what will be soon commonplace in cosmological literature. EVERYTHING has an electromagnetic explanation. These explanations have well understood scientific principles at their foundation. The known laws of physics and chemistry do not have to be abandoned for the electromagnetic models to be correct. They make common sense and have experimental confirmation. They also have predictive value and make our universe understandable.
    Anyone that fails to recognize the electromagnetic foundation of “OUR UNIVERSE TODAY” will soon be forced to face the truth.

    • BCstargazer says

      Was that agonizingly long nonsensical rambling a threat?

    • Member
      Aqua4U says

      Care to elucidate further, specifically with the math(s) behind your claims? Your sweeping tome appears to collect many disparate scientific facts into a cloud of pseudo scientific gibberish to prove your point. If you REALLY want to be listened to.. show us the math.

      Will you next attack the logic of the mathematics behind accepted science? Science is not just semantics you know…

    • Nexus says

      I’ve noticed you posting similar long-winded, content-free screeds on several recent articles. Do you type them all out by hand, or do you just copy and paste large sections of a pre-assembled diatribe? Because whoever wrote that stuff clearly has NFI.

  3. Steven says

    I’d be interested in an exploration of the magnetic interactions between the Moon and Earth in light of these finds. Two relatively strong magnetic fields and relatively close together in their early history at a time of a young solar system…. Would the Earth-Moon system have been an EM radiator driven by tidal affects changing both as well as the orbital dynamics? But such an affect would have lost energy from the system tending towards bringing them together. But then it could be a small affect overcome by the tidal/gravitational interactions but a small affect could still be a large thing. Atmospheres give birth to masers, could the Earth-Moon system done something else?

  4. If we want to understand any cause of a phenomenon in the universe, we must, first of all, to understand the structure of the universe. Also including questions of how and from which matter is formed.
    Constant mention that matter formed from the substance ether, which fills the infinite universe. Do not overlook the story of the formation of matter.
    When the substances formed from the ether, it retains some of the “family ties and heritable traits” of ether and, therefore, out of balance condition occurs between the materials and an ether which fills even the smallest subatomic particles, and even photons, neutrinos, quark and gluons. Substances (3 kg of particles, positron and an electron), the ether having a “connection” that occurs as gravity.
    The ratio of the energy state of matter (Gluons) with ether as is shown magnetism.
    Science needs to know what and how a gluon. When this is understood, everything becomes clearer. Briefly: gluon annihilation occurs pair of electron-positron. When I went into the gluon 3kg neutron particle arises.
    In all of the celestial bodies only of the core is formed of carbon (hydrogen, helium or close to it), which are formed in the blast neutron stars (quark gluonic plasma). The greater the densely core, more features therein gluons and those with ether caused by the magnetism, and if the core is cooled, then the plasma is converted into the liquid metal (or solid) having a surplus gluons, ie neutrons and isotopes, and the magnetism decreases (the case of Mars and our moon, in a sense).
    This has its explanation, which has reversed ‘spin’ movement of knowledge in relation to scientific theories, based on models and formulas, less the true causes of the phenomenon.

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