Earthshine on a young moon: Explaining the lunar farside highlands

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The lunar farside highlands problem refers to the curious and unexplained fact that the farside lunar crust is thicker, on average, than the nearside crust. Here we recognize the crucial influence of Earthshine, and propose that it naturally explains this hemispheric dichotomy. Since the accreting Moon rapidly achieved synchronous rotation, a surface and atmospheric thermal gradient was imposed by the proximity of the hot, post-giant impact Earth. This gradient guided condensation of atmospheric and accreting material, preferentially depositing crust-forming refractories on the cooler farside, resulting in a primordial bulk chemical inhomogeneity that seeded the crustal asymmetry. Our model provides a causal solution to the lunar highlands problem: the thermal gradient created by Earthshine produced the chemical gradient responsible for the crust thickness dichotomy that defines the lunar highlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL42
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 20 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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