Toward a mineral physics reference model for the Moon's core

Daniele Antonangeli, Guillaume Morard, Nicholas C. Schmerr, Tetsuya Komabayashi, Michael Krisch, Guillaume Fiquet, Yingwei Fei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The physical properties of iron (Fe) at high pressure and high temperature are crucial for understanding the chemical composition, evolution, and dynamics of planetary interiors. Indeed, the inner structures of the telluric planets all share a similar layered nature: a central metallic core composed mostly of iron, surrounded by a silicate mantle, and a thin, chemically differentiated crust. To date, most studies of iron have focused on the hexagonal closed packed (hcp, or ε) phase, as ε-Fe is likely stable across the pressure and temperature conditions of Earth’s core. However, at the more moderate pressures characteristic of the cores of smaller planetary bodies, such as the Moon, Mercury, or Mars, iron takes on a face-centered cubic (fcc, or γ) structure. Here we present compressional and shear wave sound velocity and density measurements of γ-Fe at high pressures and high temperatures, which are needed to develop accurate seismic models of planetary interiors. Our results indicate that the seismic velocities proposed for the Moon’s inner core by a recent reanalysis of Apollo seismic data are well below those of γ-Fe. Our dataset thus provides strong constraints to seismic models of the lunar core and cores of small telluric planets. This allows us to propose a direct compositional and velocity model for the Moon’s core.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3916-3919
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number13
Early online date16 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2015


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