A South Pole-Aitken impact origin of the lunar compositional asymmetry

Matt J. Jones, Alexander J. Evans, Brandon C. Johnson, Matthew B. Weller, Jeffrey C. Andrews-Hanna, Sonia M. Tikoo, James T. Keane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The formation of the largest and most ancient lunar impact basin, South Pole-Aitken (SPA), was a defining event in the Moon's evolution. Using numerical simulations, we show that widespread mantle heating from the SPA impact can catalyze the formation of the long-lived nearside-farside lunar asymmetry in incompatible elements and surface volcanic deposits, which has remained unexplained since its discovery in the Apollo era. The impact-induced heat drives hemisphere-scale mantle convection, which would sequester Th- and Ti-rich lunar magma ocean cumulates in the nearside hemisphere within a few hundred million years if they remain immediately beneath the lunar crust at the time of the SPA impact. A warm initial upper mantle facilitates generation of a pronounced compositional asymmetry consistent with the observed lunar asymmetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberabm8475
JournalScience Advances
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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