The paleoregolithic layer on the Moon turned out to be thicker than expected

The dusty surface of the Moon – immortalized in the Apollo astronauts’ lunar footprints – was formed by collisions with asteroids and a harsh space environment that has destroyed the rock for millions of years. An ancient layer of this material, covered with periodic lava flows and now buried under the lunar surface, could provide new insights into the deep past of the moon, the team said.

The buried layer of the Moon, called paleoregolith, may be much thicker than previously thought.

The researchers found a thick layer of paleoregolith, roughly 5 to 10 meters, sandwiched between two layers of lava rock, believed to be 2.3 and 3.6 billion years old. Evidence suggests that the paleoregolith formed much faster – about 2 meters per billion years.

Throughout the life of the moon, volcanic activity took place, as a result of which lava rocks were deposited on the surface. This rock disintegrates into dust and soil – regolith – as a result of repeated asteroid strikes and space weathering. Researchers count craters on the Moon and use computer models to determine the rate of regolith formation.

A team of scientists developed a four-step data processing process to amplify the signal and suppress noise in the data. They observed changes in polarity as electromagnetic pulses passed through dense lava rocks and paleoregolithic rocks, allowing the team to differentiate between the various layers.

This study provides geophysical evidence that electromagnetic permeability is low for paleoregolith and high for lava flows. These results may indicate higher meteorite activity in the solar system billions of years ago.

The developed data processing tools can be used to interpret similar data that will be collected during future missions to the Moon, Mars or other celestial bodies of the solar system.

The results are published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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