A new estimate for the age of highly-siderophile element retention in the lunar mantle from late accretion

1R.Brasser,2,3S.J.Mojzsis,4S.C.Werner,5O.Abramov
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114389]
1Earth Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550, Japan
2Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
3Origins Research Institute, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, H-1112 Budapest, Hungary
4Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, University of Oslo, N-0315 Oslo, Norway
5Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Subsequent to the Moon’s formation, late accretion to the terrestrial planets strongly modified the physical and chemical nature of silicate crusts and mantles. This alteration came in the form of melting through impacts, as well as the belated addition of volatiles and the highly siderophile elements (HSEs). Even though late accretion is well established as having been an important process in the evolution of the young solar system, its intensity and temporal decline remain subject to debate. Much of this deliberation hinges on what can be inferred about late accretion to the Moon from its computed mantle HSE abundances. Current debate centres on whether the lunar HSE record is representative of its whole late accretion history or alternatively that these were only retained in the mantle and crust after a particular time, and if so, when. Here we employ improved Monte Carlo impact simulations of late accretion onto the Moon and Mars and present an updated chronology based on new dynamical simulations of leftover planetesimals and the E-belt – a now-empty hypothesised inner extension of the asteroid belt (Bottke et al., 2012). We take into account the inefficient retention of colliding material. The source of impactors on both planetary bodies is assumed to be the same, hence we use constraints from both objects simultaneously. We compute the crater and basin densities on the Moon and Mars, the largest objects to strike these planets and the amount of material they accreted. Outputs are used to infer the mass in leftover planetesimals at a particular time period, which is then compared to the lunar HSE abundance. From this estimate we calculate a preferred lunar HSE retention age of ca. 4450 Ma which means that the modelled lunar mantle HSE abundances trace almost all of lunar late accretion. Based on our results, the surface ages of the lunar highlands are at least 4370 Ma. We find that the mass of leftover planetesimals with diameters Di < 300 km at 4500 Ma that best fits the crater chronology is approximately 2 × 10−3 Earth mass (ME) while the mass of the E-belt was fixed at 4.5 × 10−4 ME. We also find that a leftover planetesimal mass in excess of 0.01 ME results in a lunar HSE retention age younger than major episodes of lunar differentiation and crust formation, which in turn violates geochemical constraints for the timing and intensity of late accretion to the Earth (Mojzsis et al., 2019).

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