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Building rocky planets – constraining magma ocean behaviour with experimental petrology

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Joshua Snape, Dr David Neave, Dr R Tartese  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project will investigate the evolution of rocky planets, with a particular focus how evolving magma oceans produce the source regions from which different suites of planetary rock samples are ultimately derived. In order to better constrain the nature and timing of magma ocean crystallisation you will use experimental petrology to simulate the temperature and pressure conditions of evolving magma oceans. You will investigate how key trace elements are distributed between mineral phases formed in these magma oceans. This new insight into the ‘partitioning’ behaviour of trace elements will be combined with previously published models describing the proportions of different mineral phases formed as magma oceans crystallise. In doing so, you will make predictions about the chemical and isotopic characteristics of different mantle source regions found within differentiated planetary bodies, to explain the origin of lithologies sampled by magmatism on the Earth, Moon and elsewhere in our Solar System.

Funding Notes

Department funded - fees and stipend provided at the current UKRI rate. Start date July 2023.


[1] Snape, J.F. et al. (2022) Experimental constraints on the long-lived radiogenic isotope evolution of the Moon. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 326:119–148.
[2] Snape, J. F. et al. (2019) The timing of basaltic volcanism at the Apollo landing sites. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 266:29–53.
[3] Snape, J. F. et al. (2016) Lunar basalt chronology, mantle differentiation and implications for determining the age of the Moon. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 451:149–158.
[4] Tartèse, R. et al. (2021) Conditions and extent of volatile loss from the Moon during formation of the Procellarum basin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118, 12, e2023023118.
[5] Neave, D. et al. (2019) Clinopyroxene–liquid equilibria and geothermobarometry in natural and experimental tholeiites: the 2014–2015 Holuhraun eruption, Iceland. Journal of Petrology, 60:1653–1680.

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