Natalie Curran

PhD Project title: Unravelling the History of the Lunar Regolith.

PhD supervisors: Dr R. Burgess and Dr K. H. Joy

Contact email address:


Project Description

The term regolith refers to the layer of fragmental and unconsolidated material that covers most of the lunar surface, and also applies to many other solar system bodies (Mars, Mercury and Vesta). This layer is created as a result of continuous bombardment by asteroidal and cometary materials, causing the frequent burial, exhumation and overall transport of individual grains. The whole process is known as the ‘gardening’ effect.  As the Moon lacks an atmosphere, the regolith act as the boundary layer between the Moon and the dynamic energetic space environment, providing a wealth of information on the interactions and the processes that have helped modify the lunar crust and regolith through time.

My research involves measuring the cosmogenic noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe) produced by the interaction of cosmic rays (solar and galactic) with the regolith. Determination of these cosmogenic isotopes can be used to decipher (i) the exposure age at or near the surface, (ii) the shielding depth within the regolith and (iii) the closure age of each sample during the rocks lifetime on the Moon. Our investigation aims to characterise the regolith history of bulk lunar meteorites and Apollo 16 regolith breccias, in order to understand the effects of the space weathering process through time and in different crustal environments


Publication List

Conference Abstracts:

N. M. Curran, K. H. Joy, J. W. Fellowes, M. W. Broadley, and R. Burgess. Basaltic Lunar Meteorites a window into a lava flow on the Moon. Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group, Edinburgh 2014.

N. M. Curran, R. Burgess, K. H. Joy and J. Fellowes. Cosmogenic noble gases in lunar meteorites: unravelling the history of the lunar regolith. European Planetary Science Congress, London 2013.

N. M. Curran, R. Burgess, and K. H. Joy. Cosmic Ray Exposure record in Lunar Meteorites. Geochemistry Group Research in Progress, Open University 2013.


Other Information

  • We at the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Group are very much involved in public engagement and outreach. As a group, I have taken part in the Live from Jodrell Bank (Transmissions 6 and 7) and a ‘Girls Night Out’, Stargazing Live 2013 (Tatton Park), Manchester Science spectacular (2012/13) and numerous visits from schools and colleges.
  • I am contributor to the Earth and Solar System blog: (, which keeps up to date with current Earth and Solar System news, as well as our own studies at the University of Manchester.
  • I am a teaching assistant for two undergraduate courses at the University of Manchester (‘Geophysical Techniques’ and ‘Interpretation of Geological Maps’).
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