Contraction or expansion of the Moon's crust during magma ocean freezing?

Linda Elkins-Tanton, David Bercovici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The lack of contraction features on the Moon has been used to argue that the Moon underwent limited secular cooling, and thus had a relatively cool initial state. A cool early state in turn limits the depth of the lunar magma ocean. Recent GRAIL gravity measurements, however, suggest that dikes were emplaced in the lower crust, requiring global lunar expansion. Starting from the magma ocean state, we show that solidification of the lunar magma ocean would most likely result in expansion of the young lunar crust, and that viscous relaxation of the crust would prevent early tectonic features of contraction or expansion from being recorded permanently. The most likely process for creating the expansion recorded by the dikes is melting during cumulate overturn of the newly solidified lunar mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130240
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2024
StatePublished - Sep 13 2014


  • Lithospheric deformation
  • Lunar crust
  • Magma ocean

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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