The Moon


The Moon preserves a record of the early geological evolution of a terrestrial planet, inner Solar System impact bombardment and the solar and galactic environment throughout the last 4.5 billion years. It is, thus, also a witness-plate for the processes that affected the history of the Earth. In Manchester we combine studies of lunar samples and remotely sensed measurements to better understand the Moon’s geological history.

Apollo and Luna samples
Sample return missions to the Moon have brought back about 382 kg of rock from nine localities on the lunar nearside. These samples have shed new light on the formation of the Moon; how the lunar crust formed; and how the crust was subsequently modified by magmatic and volcanic episodes and impact bombardment. In Manchester we are studying a range of Apollo and Luna samples using electron optics and noble gas geochemistry to address the following science investigations:

  • The volcanic history of Mare Crisium (Luna 24) and Oceanus Procellarum (Apollo 12)
  • The petrological and shock history of the lunar highlands crust
  • The impact and regolith history of the Apollo 16 highlands landing site
  • Characterising the sources of lunar impactors
  • The halogen history of the lunar surface and interior

Lunar meteorites

There are more than 170 different lunar meteorites collected on Earth, some of which represent regions of the Moon that were not sampled by the Apollo and Luna missions. These meteorites therefore provide the first global sample of the Moon’s crust and provide a context for interpreting data synthesised from the Apollo missions. Our lunar work is laboratory based and focuses on the chronology and geochemistry of lunar meteorites. However, we also use spacecraft datasets to seek out the source regions of lunar meteorites ejected from the Moon’s surface. Some specific lunar meteorite research projects we are involved in include:

  • Dating impact events recorded by lunar meteorites
  • Investigating the petrogenesis and age of lavas across the Moon
  • Investigating the regolith history of the lunar highlands 
  • The petrological and shock history of the lunar highlands crust

Remote sensing
Missions to the Moon have returned details of its surface morphology, its mineralogy and chemistry. In Manchester we have been involved in space missions to the Moon and have used lunar datasets to:

  • Investigate the compositional diversity of the lunar crust (the DCIXS experiment on SMART-1 and C1XS experiment on Chandrayaan-1)
  • Investigate impact records on the lunar surface (in collaboration with the Moon Zoo citizen science project)
  • Understand the thickness of lunar lavas (using Clementine data)

We are currently involved in lunar exploration planning activities for the European Space Agency. ESA are undertaking a study to develop a package, called PROSPECT, which will be a contribution to a Russian lander mission visiting the south polar regions of the Moon

apollo luna moon samples
Images of three lunar meteorites studied by our group (a) DaG 400 - a feldspathic meteorite from the luanr highlands. (b) NWA 4472 - a KREEPy regolith breccia from the lunar nearside. (c) MIL 05035 - a basalt from a lunar lava flow. Image credit: Katherine Joy.

We have hosted several lunar science based PhD students in the group working on a range of science topics funded by the Science and Technology Research Council (STFC). If you are interested in joining us, visit the Isotope Group PhD advert pages for currently advertised projects. Several of our students have previously participated in the NASA NLSI and SSERVI lunar and exploration intern programme hosted by the Centre for Lunar Science and Exploration at LPI.

Public Engagement
We are activity involved in sharing our excitement about lunar samples to the wider public. You can read lunar science news through the Earth and Solar System blog and come along to our public engagement events (watch the Earth and Solar System twitter feed or facebook group for event news) to hold a piece of the Moon!


  • Burgess R. and Turner G. (1998) Laser 40Ar-39Ar age determinations of Luna 24 mare basalts. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 33, 105-116.
  • Bugiolacchi R., Bamford S., Tar P., Joy K. H., Crawford I. A., Grindrod P. M., Thacker N. and Lintott C. J. (2016) The Moon Zoo citizen science project: Scientific objectives and preliminary results for the Apollo 17 landing site. Icarus Vol. 271, pp. 30–48
  • Fernandes V. A. and Burgess R. (2005) Volcanism in Mare Fecunditatis and Mare Crisium: Ar-Ar studies. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 69, 4919-4934.
  • Fernandes V. A., Burgess R. and Turner G. (2000) Laser 40Ar-39Ar studies of Dar al Gani 262 lunar meteorite. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 35, 1355-1364.
  • Fernandes V. A., Burgess R. and Turner G. (2003) Ar-Ar chronology of lunar meteorites Northwest Africa 032 and 773. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 38, 555-564
  • Fernandes V. A., Burgess R. and Morris A. (2009) Ar-Ar age determinations of lunar basalt meteorites: Asuka 881757, Yamato 793169, Miller Range 05035, La Paz 02205, North West Africa 479 and Elephant Moraine 96008. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 44, 805-821.
  • Joy K. H. and Arai T. (2013). Lunar meteorites: new insights into the geological history of the Moon. Astronomy and Geophysics. Vol. 54. pp. 4.28-4.32
  • Joy K. H., Zolensky M. E., Nagashima K., Huss G. R., McKay D. S., Ross D. K., and Kring D. A. (2012) Direct detection of projectile relics from the end of the lunar basin-forming epoch. Science. Vol. 336. No.6087. pp. 1426-1429. doi 10.1126/science.1219633.
  • Joy K. H., Burgess R., Hinton R., Fernandes V. A., Crawford I. A., Kearsley A. T., Irving A. J., EIMF (2011). Petrogenesis and Chronology of Lunar Meteorite Northwest Africa 4472. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Vol. 75, pp. 2420-2452. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.02.018.
  • Joy K. H., Kring D. A., Bogard D. D., McKay D. S., and Zolensky M. E. (2011). Re-examination of the formation ages of Apollo 16 regolith breccias. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Vol. 75, pp. 7208-7225. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.09.018.
  • Joy K. H., Crawford I.A., Russell S.S., and Kearsley A.T. (2010). Lunar Meteorite Regolith Breccias: an in situ study of impact melt composition using LA-ICP-MS and implications for the composition of the lunar crust. Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Vol. 45, 917-946.
  • Joy K. H., Crawford I. A., Anand M., Greenwood R.C., Franchi I.A. and Russell S. S. (2008). The Petrogenesis of Miller Range 05035: A New Lunar Gabbroic Meteorite. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Vol. 72. pp. 3822-3844. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2008.04.032.
  • Pernet-Fisher J. R. and Joy K. H. (2016). The lunar highlands: old crust, new ideas Astronomy and Geophysics Astronomy & Geophysics 2016 57 (1): 1.26-1.30 doi: 10.1093/astrogeo/atw039
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