A model of the primordial lunar atmosphere

Prabal Saxena, Linda Elkins-Tanton, Noah Petro, Avi Mandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

We create the first quantitative model for the early lunar atmosphere, coupled with a magma ocean crystallization model. Immediately after formation, the moon's surface was subject to a radiative environment that included contributions from the early Sun, a post-impact Earth that radiated like a mid-type M dwarf star, and a cooling global magma ocean. This radiative environment resulted in a largely Earth-side atmosphere on the Moon, ranging from ∼104 to ∼102 pascals, composed of heavy volatiles (Na and SiO). This atmosphere persisted through lid formation and was additionally characterized by supersonic winds that transported significant quantities of moderate volatiles and likely generated magma ocean waves. The existence of this atmosphere may have influenced the distribution of some moderate volatiles and created temperature asymmetries which influenced ocean flow and cooling. Such asymmetries may characterize young, tidally locked rocky bodies with global magma oceans and subject to intense irradiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-205
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume474
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2017

Keywords

  • asymmetry
  • atmosphere
  • magma ocean
  • Moon
  • wave generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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