Status Report

Lunar Exploration as a Probe of Ancient Venus

By SpaceRef Editor
October 7, 2020
Filed under , ,

Samuel H. C. Cabot, Gregory Laughlin

An ancient Venusian rock could constrain that planet’s history, and reveal the past existence of oceans. Such samples may persist on the Moon, which lacks an atmosphere and significant geological activity. We demonstrate that if Venus’ atmosphere was at any point thin and similar to Earth’s, then asteroid impacts transferred potentially detectable amounts of Venusian surface material to the Lunar regolith. Venus experiences an enhanced flux relative to Earth of asteroid collisions that eject lightly-shocked (≲40 GPa) surface material. Initial launch conditions plus close-encounters and resonances with Venus evolve ejecta trajectories into Earth-crossing orbits. Using analytic models for crater ejecta and \textit{N}-body simulations, we find more than 0.07% of the ejecta lands on the Moon. The Lunar regolith will contain up to 0.2 ppm Venusian material if Venus lost its water in the last 3.5 Gyr. If water was lost more than 4 Gyr ago, 0.3 ppm of the deep megaregolith is of Venusian origin. About half of collisions between ejecta and the Moon occur at ≲6 km s−1, which hydrodynamical simulations have indicated is sufficient to avoid significant shock alteration. Therefore, recovery and isotopic analyses of Venusian surface samples would determine with high confidence both whether and when Venus harbored liquid oceans and/or a lower-mass atmosphere. Tests on brecciated clasts in existing Lunar samples from Apollo missions may provide an immediate resolution. Alternatively, regolith characterization by upcoming Lunar missions may provide answers to these fundamental questions surrounding Venus’ evolution.

Comments: 23 pages, 7 figures, accepted to PSJ

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:2010.02215 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2010.02215v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Samuel Cabot 

[v1] Mon, 5 Oct 2020 18:00:00 UTC (9,676 KB)

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