Titanium on the Moon

Subtly shaded map of Moon reveals Titanium treasure troves | School of Earth and Space Exploration

A map of the Moon combining observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths shows a treasure trove of areas rich in Titanium ores. Not only is titanium a valuable element, it is key to helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s interior. Arizona State University’s Mark Robinson and Brett Denevi of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory will be presenting the results from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission today at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of gray – at least to the human eye. But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colorful,” said Robinson, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these color variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”

LROC WAC mosaic showing the boundary between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquillitatis. The relative blue colour of the Tranquillitatis mare is due to higher abundances of the titanium bearing mineral ilmenite. Enhanced colour formed as 689 nm filter image in red, 415 nm in green, and 321 nm in blue [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Full resolution WAC three colour composite (566 nm filter image in red, 360 nm in green, and 321 nm in blue) highlighting region with varying mare compositions and enigmatic small volcanic structures known as “domes” [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is imaging the surface in seven different wavelengths at a resolution of between 100 and 400 meters per pixel (328 and 1312 feet per pixel). Specific minerals reflect or absorb strongly certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, so the wavelengths detected by LROC WAC help scientists better understand the chemical composition of the lunar surface.

Malin Space Science Systems - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instruments. [...] one of the two narrow angle cameras with a 88.9 mm (3.5 inch) Swiss Army Knife (and a hammer) for scale.

[...] the wide angle camera system, with the same pocket knife for scale.

The Moon Is Bursting With Precious Titanium : Discovery News

  • New maps show rich abundances of titanium in the solidified lava flows on the moon.
  • The element is mostly found in a mineral that also contains iron and oxygen.
  • Titanium deposits, which could be mined for future use, also reveal history of moon’s volcanic eruptions.