University of Manchester uses CT to scan moon rock


The Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility (HMXIF) at the University of Manchester was established in 2003. With a total of 11 imaging systems including 3 Nikon systems, the facility takes on various industrial inspection tasks and research projects. A recent example, is this scan of the Northwest Africa 11444 moon rock, watch the video and find out more here.

Northwest Africa 11444 is a rock that has been found on Earth that originally came from the Moon. It is a meteorite that was blasted off the lunar surface when an asteroid or comet struck, travelling through space, entering Earth’s atmosphere and eventually landing in Mauritania in Northwest Africa.

Meteorites from the Moon are a valuable scientific resource and it is known that they have a lunar origin as they are chemically similar to rocks that were collected by the Apollo missions. The key significance of lunar meteorites is that they sample a much wider region of the Moon than any of the six Apollo sample return missions, providing new views of the Moon’s geological makeup.

CT is used to scan moon rock - Northwest Africa 11444Northwest Africa 11444 – Image credit: Katherine Joy, University of Manchester.

Lunar scientists study these types of lunar samples to understand how the Moon’s crust formed and at what time impact collisions occurred in its past. The sample investigated using CT at the University of Manchester is about 5 cm in diameter (36 grams) – but it is just one of several pieces of an enormous 34 kg meteorite (for context, this meteorite mass is almost as much mass as all the samples collected by the Apollo 11 mission – some 38 kg).

The different components in the meteorite reflect high iron and low iron silicate mineral phases, different rock fragments, metal particles, along with fracture networks. Studying the chemistry and diversity of these components will be the next step in the investigation of this sample to understand its makeup and what it reveals about the geological history of our closest planetary neighbour.

Words of Katherine Joy, Research Fellow at University of Manchester, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Watch the results of the X-ray CT scan in the video below.





Tristan Lowe is the Senior Experimental Officer for the School of Materials at the University of Manchester and he explains about how the specimen was scanned.

“The moon rock was scanned on the customised high flux bay system. For this particular specimen we used the multi-metal reflection target, since the small spot size at high power combined with the tungsten spectra provides the best imaging conditions for this particular specimen. In addition the new Perkin – Elmer 1611 detector allows a superior field of view to resolution ratio combined with an excellent sensitivity that can differentiate phases that are chemically similar”.

Three Nikon Metrology X-ray CT systems are used in the HMXIF at the University of Manchester. These are the XT H 225 cabinetcustom built large-envelope system with exchangable 225/320 kV micro-focus sources, and the XT H 320 large-envelope system. For almost 20 years, the University of Manchester has used Nikon CT for a great range of research and commercial projects. To find out more about the X-ray CT work at the HMXIF, read the latest case story here.



Further reading:

Learn more about lunar meteorites or The Earth and Solar System