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Reorientation of the early lunar pole

Abstract

Palaeomagnetic measurements suggest that an active core dynamo operated on the Moon from 4.2 to 3.56 billion years ago1,2,3. Since the Apollo era, many magnetic anomalies have been observed on the Moon. The magnetization of the lunar crust in some of these regions could preserve the signature of an early dipolar magnetic field generated by a core dynamo. Thus, the magnetic anomalies may yield information about the position of the palaeomagnetic pole during the time that the dynamo operated. Here we present a comprehensive survey of magnetic anomalies on the lunar surface using magnetometer data4,5 obtained by the Lunar Prospector and Kaguya lunar orbiters. We extract magnetization vectors from 24 magnetic anomalies using an iterative inversion method and derive the palaeomagnetic poles. We find that the north poles, as well as the antipodal south poles, cluster in two distinct locations: one near the present rotation axis and the other at mid-latitude. The clustering is consistent with a dipole-dominated magnetic field generated in the lunar core by a dynamo that was reversing, much like that of Earth. Furthermore, the two pole clusters imply that the Moon experienced a polar wander event during its ancient history due to the reorientation of the Moon with respect to its spin axis by 45°–60°.

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Figure 1: Locations of study regions on the Moon.
Figure 2: Total field anomaly maps by observations and by the corresponding dipole source models.
Figure 3: Equal-area projection of the palaeomagnetic poles calculated from the selected models viewed from the south.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all of the members of the SELENE/Kaguya project team. This work was supported by a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Grant Number 25400445).

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Contributions

F.T. performed data analysis and manuscript preparation. H.T. was involved in project planning, data analysis and manuscript preparation. H. Shimizu, H. Shibuya and M.M. contributed to calibrating the Lunar Magnetometer onboard the Kaguya spacecraft. All authors contributed to discussion and conclusions in this study.

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Correspondence to Futoshi Takahashi.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Takahashi, F., Tsunakawa, H., Shimizu, H. et al. Reorientation of the early lunar pole. Nature Geosci 7, 409–412 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2150

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