Was the Sun a Slow Rotator? Sodium and Potassium Constraints from the Lunar Regolith

Prabal Saxena1,2, Rosemary M. Killen1, Vladimir Airapetian1,3, Noah E. Petro1, Natalie M. Curran1,4, and Avi M. Mandell1
Astrophysical Journal Letters 876, L16 Link to Article [DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab18fb]
1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
2CREST II/University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
3American University, Washington, DC 20016, USA
4USRA, Columbia, MD, 21046, USA

While the Earth and Moon are generally similar in composition, a notable difference between the two is the apparent depletion in moderately volatile elements in lunar samples. This is often attributed to the formation process of the Moon, and it demonstrates the importance of these elements as evolutionary tracers. Here we show that paleo space weather may have driven the loss of a significant portion of moderate volatiles, such as sodium and potassium, from the surface of the Moon. The remaining sodium and potassium in the regolith is dependent on the primordial rotation state of the Sun. Notably, given the joint constraints shown in the observed degree of depletion of sodium and potassium in lunar samples and the evolution of activity of solar analogs over time, the Sun is highly likely to have been a slow rotator. Because the young Sun’s activity was important in affecting the evolution of planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and habitability in the early Solar System, this is an important constraint on the solar activity environment at that time. Finally, as solar activity was strongest in the first billion years of the Solar System, when the Moon was most heavily bombarded by impactors, evolution of the Sun’s activity may also be recorded in lunar crust and would be an important well-preserved and relatively accessible record of past Solar System processes.

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