Research Articles

Abundance and Distribution of Iron on the Moon

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Science  26 May 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5214, pp. 1150-1153
DOI: 10.1126/science.268.5214.1150


The abundance and distribution of iron on the moon is derived from a near-global data set from Clementine. The determined iron content of the lunar highlands crust (∼3 percent iron by weight) supports the hypothesis that much of the lunar crust was derived from a magma ocean. The iron content of lower crustal material exposed by the South Pole-Aitken impact basin on the lunar farside is higher (∼7 to 8 percent by weight) and consistent with a basaltic composition. This composition supports earlier evidence that the lunar crust becomes more mafic with depth. The data also suggest that the bulk composition of the moon differs from that of the Earth's mantle. This difference excludes models for lunar origin that require the Earth and moon to have the same compositions, such as fission and coaccretion, and favors giant impact and capture.

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