Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2017.12.023]
1U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, 4555 Overlook Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20375, United states
The solar wind is an important driver of space weathering on airless bodies. Over time, solar wind exposure alters the physical, chemical, and optical properties of exposed materials and can also impart a significant amount of helium into the surfaces of these bodies. However, common materials on the surface of the Moon, such as glass, crystalline silicates, and oxides, have highly variable responses to solar wind irradiation. We used scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) with electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) to examine the morphology and chemistry of a single grain of lunar soil that includes silicate glass, chromite and ilmenite, all present and exposed along the same surface. The exposure of the silicate glass and oxides to the same space weathering conditions allows for direct comparisons of the responses of natural materials to the complex lunar surface environment. The silicate glass shows minimal effects of solar wind irradiation, whereas both the chromite and ilmenite exhibit defect-rich rims that currently contain trapped helium. Only the weathered rim in ilmenite is rich in nanophase metallic iron (npFe0) and larger vesicles that retain helium at a range of internal pressures. The multiple exposed surfaces of the single grain of ilmenite demonstrate strong crystallographic controls of planar defects and non-spherical npFe0. The direct spectroscopic identification of helium in the vesicles and planar defects in the oxides provides additional evidence of the central role of solar wind irradiation in the formation of some common space weathering features.