Impact-related crystallization and modification of small zircons in Apollo 15 and 16 impactites at 4.2 Ga

1Dennis Marcel Vanderliek,1Harry Becker,2Alexander Rocholl
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 576, 117216 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117216]
1Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstraße 74-100, 12249 Berlin, Germany
2Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZn, Telegrafenberg, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany
Copyright Elsevier

Because of their robustness against resetting, in situ U-Pb ages of zircons in lunar impactites have the potential to provide constraints on the lunar bombardment history that may complement the more common K-Ar ages. Most previous work has focused on relatively large zircons that show growth zoning and ages were mostly interpreted as early igneous crystallization ages. Here we combine high-resolution mineralogical imaging and in situ U-Pb dating by ion microprobe to identify, characterize and date <20 μm size zircons in thin sections of lunar impact breccias. Several tens of grains of zircons of this size range were identified in thin sections of impactites from the Apollo 15 and 16 landing sites. Small zircons are more abundant in both noritic and evolved clinopyroxene, SiO2 or K-feldspar bearing lithologies compared to anorthositic bulk compositions. Both granular zircon aggregates and overgrowth on existing zircon or baddeleyite (in breccias 15455 and 67915) are interpreted to reflect high-temperature recrystallization of zircons or its high-temperature-pressure precursor phases, following shock heating events by impact. In contrast, conchoidal or poikilitic zircons <10 μm in Fe-Ni metal bearing noritic clasts or matrix (67915, 67955) crystallized in situ from impact melt. Most U-Pb ages of the 24 analyzed grains are either concordant or reverse discordant with 207Pb-206Pb ages ranging from 4.15 to 4.25 Ga. The small age range, combined with a large textural spectrum and the frequent presence of Fe-Ni metal suggest zircon crystallization from impact melt and recrystallization of pre-existing zirconium-bearing minerals by impact heating. Such ‘impact’ zircons with 4.2 Ga ages have now been reported from most Apollo landing sites, suggesting widespread formation and modification of zircons by basin-forming impacts at this time. The contrast between U-Pb zircon (predominantly 4.2 Ga) and K-Ar feldspar ages (predominantly 3.9 Ga) likely reflects resetting of the latter chronometer by impact heating.

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