Late accretion to the Moon recorded in zircon (U–Th)/He thermochronometry

1Nigel M.Kelly, 1,2Rebecca M.Flowers, 1James R.Metcalf, 1,2,3Stephen J.Mojzsis
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 482, 222-235 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2017.11.009]
1Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, 2200 Colorado Avenue, UCB 399, Boulder, CO 80309-0399, USA
2Collaborative for Research in Origins (CRiO), The John Templeton Foundation – FfAME Origins Program, USA
3Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 45 Budaörsi Street, H-1112 Budapest, Hungary
Copyright Elsevier

We conducted zircon (U–Th)/He (ZHe) analysis of lunar impact-melt breccia 14311 with the aim of leveraging radiation damage accumulated in zircon over extended intervals to detect low-temperature or short-lived impact events that have previously eluded traditional isotopic dating techniques. Our ZHe data record a coherent date vs. effective Uranium concentration (eU) trend characterized by >3500 Ma dates from low (≤75 ppm) eU zircon grains, and ca. 110 Ma dates for high (≥100 ppm) eU grains. A progression between these date populations is apparent for intermediate (75–100 ppm) eU grains. Thermal history modeling constrains permissible temperatures and cooling rates during and following impacts. Modeling shows that the data are most simply explained by impact events at ca. 3950 Ma and ca. 110 Ma, and limits allowable temperatures of heating events between 3950–110 Ma. Modeling of solar cycling thermal effects at the lunar surface precludes this as the explanation for the ca. 110 Ma ZHe dates. We propose a sample history characterized by zircon resetting during the ca. 3950 Ma Imbrium impact event, with subsequent heating during an impact at ca. 110 Ma that ejected the sample to the vicinity of its collection site. Our data show that zircon has the potential to retain 4He over immense timescales (≥3950 Myrs), thus providing a valuable new thermochronometer for probing the impact histories of lunar samples, and martian or asteroidal meteorites.

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