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(STFC DTP) Magma storage and crystallization in rocky planets: Magma chambers on the Moon?

Project Description

The Moon records volcanism on a small rocky planet. Lunar lavas were dominantly erupted between ~4.35 and 3 billion years ago. These lavas were sourced by partial melting of different regions of the lunar mantle, giving rise to a range of chemical affiliations and crystallization histories. Different lunar magma compositions are thought to have reached the surface via pathways, but the pressures and temperatures of magma storage and crystallization are not well known.
This project will use a petrological and experimental approach to investigate the magma storage and crystallization history of lunar magmas as they ascended from the mantle to the surface. Did lunar magmas stall and crystallise in crustal magma chambers, or ascend rapidly to the lunar surface? At what pressures did crystals nucleate and grow? What can this tell us about magmatic plumbing systems and volcanic eruption styles on rocky planets?
The project will involve using a range of analytical techniques, including scanning electron microscope and electron microprobe, to examine the textures and mineral compositions of lunar lavas sampled by the Apollo astronauts. The student will use the experimental petrology facilities at Manchester to run a series of experiments aimed at calibrating mineral-melt barometers for lunar basalt compositions at a range of pressures. There will also be an option to undertake a research visit to Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, Germany, to conduct pressure vessel experiments.
Suggested skills: We seek an able and enthusiastic individual with a strong background (MSc, MSci or BSc) in geoscience or physical sciences to join our research group. No experience of working with planetary samples is necessary, but the candidate should have appropriate experience in igneous petrology and optical microscopy. Some knowledge of scanning electron microscopy, electron microprobe techniques and/or experimental petrology would be helpful. The applicant will be encouraged to attend national and international conferences during the PhD to present their research.

Contact Margaret Hartley: , David Neave: or Katherine Joy : for more details.

Funding Notes

Please check the eligibility for UKRI STFC funding and note the UK residency rules regarding eligibility of stipend and fee support.
Find out more about Grant terms and conditions
Find out more about payments to students

If you are not a UK resident, you may be able to prepare a separate case and apply for internal University of Manchester funding (for example the President’s award , see also other options ) and should discuss this with the potential supervisor.
See University funding options


Apollo sample compendium as a good general overview to mare basalts and lunar mineralogy
Schnare DW, Day JMD, Norman MD, Liu Y, Taylor LA (2009) A laser-ablation ICP-MS study of Apollo 15 low-titanium olivine-normative and quartz-normative mare basalts. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 72:2556-2572,
Walker D, Kirkpatrick RJ, Longhi J, Hays JF (1976) Crystallization history of linar picritic basalt sample 12002: Phase-equilibria and cooling-rate studies. GSA Bull 85:646-656,;2
Barometry and experimental petrology
Jennings ES, Gibson SA, Maclennan J (2019) Hot primary melts and mantle source for the Paraná-Etendeka flood basalt province: New constraints from Al-in-olivine thermometry. Chem Geol 529:119287,
Neave DA, Putirka KD (2017) A new clinopyroxene-liquid barometer, and implications for magma storage pressures under Icelandic rift zones. Am Mineral 102:777-794,
Neave DA, Bali E, Gudfinsson GH, Halldorsson SA, Kahl M, Schmidt A-S, Holtz F (2019) Clinopyroxene-liquid equilibria and geothermobarometry in natural and experimental tholeiites: the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption, Iceland. J Petrol egz042,
Voigt M, Coogan LA, von der Handt A (2017) Experimental investigation of the stability of clinopyroxene in mid-ocean ridge basalts: The role of Cr and Ca/Al. Lithos 274-275:240-253,

Related Subjects

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

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