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Comparative Magma OceanographyThe question of whether the Earth ever passed through a magma ocean stage is of considerable interest. Geochemical evidence strongly suggests that the Moon had a magma ocean and the evidence is mounting that the same was true for Mars. Analyses of martian (SNC) meteorites have yielded insights into the differentiation history of Mars, and consequently, it is interesting to compare that planet to the Earth. Three primary features of Mars contrast strongly to those of the Earth: (i) the extremely ancient ages of the martian core, mantle, and crust (about 4.55 b.y.); (ii) the highly depleted nature of the martian mantle; and (iii) the extreme ranges of Nd isotopic compositions that arise within the crust and depleted mantle. The easiest way to explain the ages and diverse isotopic compositions of martian basalts is to postulate that Mars had an early magma ocean. Cumulates of this magma ocean were later remelted to form the SNC meteorite suite and some of these melts assimilated crustal materials enriched in incompatible elements. The REE pattern of the crust assimilated by these SNC magmas was LREE enriched. If this pattern is typical of the crust as a whole, the martian crust is probably similar in composition to melts generated by small degrees of partial melting (about 5%) of a primitive source. Higher degrees of partial melting would cause the crustal LREE pattern to be essentially flat. In the context of a magma ocean model, where large degrees of partial melting presumably prevailed, the crust would have to be dominated by late-stage, LREE-enriched residual liquids. Regardless of the exact physical setting, Nd and W isotopic evidence indicates that martian geochemical reservoirs must have formed early and that they have not been efficiently remixed since. The important point is that in both the Moon and Mars we see evidence of a magma ocean phase and that we recognize it as such. Several lines of theoretical inference point to an early Earth that was also hot and, perhaps, mostly molten. The Giant Impact hypothesis for the origin of the Moon offers a tremendous input of thermal energy and the same could be true for core formation. And current solar system models favor the formation of a limited number of large (about 1000 km) planetesimals that, upon accreting to Earth, would cause great heating, being lesser versions of the Giant Impact. Several lines of geochemical evidence do not favor this hot early Earth scenario. (i) Terrestrial man-tle xenoliths are sometimes nearly chondritic in their major element compositions, suggesting that these rocks have never been much molten. Large degrees of partial melting probably promote differentiation rather than homogenization. (ii) Unlike the case of Mars, the continental crust probably did not form as a highly fractionated residual liquid from a magma ocean (about 99% crystallization), but, rather, formed in multiple steps. [The simplest model for the formation of continental crust is complicated: (a) about 10% melting of a primitive mantle, making basalt; (b) hydrothermal alteration of that basalt, converting it to greenstone; and (c) 10% partial melting of that greenstone, producing tonalite.] This model is reinforced by the recent observation from old (about 4.1 b.y.) zircons that the early crust formed from an undepleted mantle having a chondritic Lu/Hf ratio. (iii) If the mantle were once differentiated by a magma ocean, the mantle xenolith suite requires that it subsequently be homogenized. The Os isotopic compositions of fertile spinel lherzolites place constraints on the timing of that homogenization. The Os isotopic composition of spinel lherzolites approaches that of chondrites and correlates with elements such as Lu and Al. As Lu and Al concentrations approach those of the primitive mantle, Os isotopic compositions approach chondritic. The Re and Os in these xenoliths were probably added as a late veneer. Thus, the mantle that received the late veneer must have been nearly chondritic in terms of its major elements (excluding Fe). If the mantle that the veneer was mixed into was not al-ready homogenized, then Os isotopes should not correlate with incompatible elements such as Al. Consequently, either early differentiation of the mantle did not occur or the homogenization of this differentiation must have occurred before the late veneer was added. The timing of the late veneer is itself uncertain but presumably postdated core formation at about 4.45 b.y. and did not postdate the 3.8-3.9 b.y. late bombardment of the Moon. This timing based on siderophile elements is consistent with the Hf isotopic evidence cited above. If the Earth, Moon and Mars had magma oceans, the Earth subsequently rehomogenized whereas the Moon and Mars did not. The simplest solution to this observation is that homogenization of igneous differentiates was never necessary on Earth, either because the hypothetical magma ocean never occurred or because this event did not produce mantle differentiation.
Document ID
20000109190
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Jones, J. H. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: Ninth Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference
Subject Category
Oceanography
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle20000108923Analytic PrimaryNinth Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference