Impact History and Regolith Evolution on the Moon: Geochemistry and Ages of Glasses from the Apollo 16 Site

1Marc D. Norman,2Fred Jourdan,1Simeon S.M. Hui
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006053]
1Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
2Department of Applied Geology and John de Laeter Centre, School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Lunar impact glasses are quenched droplets of melt that carry geochemical records of their target compositions, formation ages, and time‐integrated exposure in the upper layers of the lunar regolith. Here we present the first study to obtain major element, trace element, and Ar isotopic data for impact glasses from the Apollo 16 regolith sample 66031. Thirty particles were analysed with 27 of them yielding useable age information. The glasses have a wide range of major and trace element compositions, similar to that observed in lunar meteorites. Half of these glasses have compositions similar to Apollo 16 soils and are considered to be “locally derived”, whereas the others represent diverse source regions and are considered to be “exotic” particles that were delivered from a considerable distance to the landing site.
Almost 40% of the samples analysed for this study have formation ages younger than 500 Ma. Duplicate particles produced in single impact events contribute minimally to the age distribution, and diurnal or transient heating of the regolith does not appear to have had a significant effect on the 40Ar/39Ar ages. Rather, the ages reflect primarily the formation of these glasses by impact melting, with the distribution modified to some degree by preservation bias. As most of these glasses are likely formed by relatively small impactors, their age distribution cannot be compared directly with the crystalline lunar melt rocks to constrain the impact mass flux through time.

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