Fractional crystallization of the lunar magma ocean: Updating the dominant paradigm

1J. F. Rapp,2D. S. Draper
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.13086]
1Jacobs JETS, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA
2Astromaterials Research Office, EISD, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

We report results of systematic experimental simulation of fractional crystallization of a lunar magma ocean (LMO) with the Lunar Primitive Upper Mantle bulk composition. These results complement prior work that simulated equilibrium crystallization. In contrast to previous numerical models for investigating magma ocean solidification processes and implications, our combined program simulates these processes directly using petrologic experimentation. Our experiments mimic LMO crystallization that is fractional throughout the process, rather than switching from initially equilibrium to fractional crystallization partway through. To do this, we adopted an iterative approach in which the starting material for each run is synthesized using the composition of the melt phase from the prior run. We compare our results to those from long‐standing numerical models of LMO crystallization and show that although some features of those models are broadly reproduced, there are key differences in liquid lines of descent and the cumulate lithologies generated. Our results can be used to estimate the possible thickness of a primordial lunar crust formed from flotation of plagioclase during magma ocean solidification. Our estimate is greater than that from the recent Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, but consistent with the criteria on which the starting bulk composition was originally calculated. It assumes perfectly efficient separation of all plagioclase formed from the crystallizing magma ocean, which is likely not the case. We also demonstrate that a non‐chondritic bulk composition, with respect to trace elements, is not required in order to generate a KREEP (potassium, rare earth elements, and phosphorus) signature from magma ocean crystallization.

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