The Moon likely lost its magnetic field after an internal dynamo stopped firing 1 billion years ago, according to a new study.The research, published in Science Advances, looks at rocks from Earth’s lunar satellite that were melted by an impact and found that measurements taken from these rocks show a significantly weak magnetic field, just…
The Moon likely lost its magnetic field after an internal dynamo stopped firing 1 billion years ago, according to a new study.
The research, published in Science Advances, looks at rocks from Earth’s lunar satellite that were melted by an impact and found that measurements taken from these rocks show a significantly weak magnetic field, just 0.1 microteslas, approximately 1 billion years ago.
“Combined with previous paleointensity estimates, this indicates that the lunar dynamo likely ceased sometime between ~1.92 and ~0.80 Ga ago,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract. “The protracted lifetime of the lunar magnetic field indicates that the late dynamo was likely powered by crystallization of the lunar core.”
(Credit: EarthView, Arizona State University Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Team from imagery returned by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)
Previous research found that the magnetic field on the Moon was 100 microteslas approximately 4 billion years ago, roughly double that of present-day Earth.
The Moon is thought to be 4.5 billion years old, but a separate study published in August 2018 suggests that the satellite could be 100 million years older than previously thought.
Speaking with Newsweek, one of the study’s authors, Benjamin Weiss, said the magnetic field likely helped protect the Moon from the Sun’s solar wind.
“This may have prevented the surface from being space weathered and the soil becoming rich in solar gases like it is today,” Weiss told the news outlet. Furthermore, the Moon was likely about twice as close to the Earth during the time the Moon was inferred to have a strong magnetic field compared today.”
It’s unclear why the internal dynamo stopped or what caused the magnetic shield to erode.
The Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite. Artemis will also make history by landing the first woman on the Moon.
Initial mission capability for 2024 involves landing two astronauts on the Moon’s South Pole. Astronauts will live and work out of the lander for 6.5 days, according to NASA.
Longer-term, the Lander will need to transport four people to the lunar South Pole.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this story.