Physics and Astronomy
lunar-regolith, regolith-breccia, magnetite, lunar-volatiles, lunar-oxidation
Lunar regolith breccias are temporal archives of magmatic and impact bombardment processes on the Moon. Apollo 16 sample 60016 is an ‘ancient’ feldspathic regolith breccia that was converted from a soil to a rock at ~3.8 Ga. The breccia contains a small (70 × 50 μm) rock fragment composed dominantly of an Fe-oxide phase with disseminated domains of troilite. Fragments of plagioclase (An95-97), pyroxene (En74-75, Fs21-22,Wo3-4) and olivine (Fo66-67) are distributed in and adjacent to the Fe-oxide. The silicate minerals have lunar compositions that are similar to anorthosites. Mineral chemistry, synchrotron X-ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy (XANES) and X-ray Diffraction (XRD) studies demonstrate that the oxide phase is magnetite with an estimated Fe3+/ΣFe ratio of ~0.45. The presence of magnetite in 60016 indicates that oxygen fugacity during formation was equilibrated at, or above, the Fe-magnetite or wűstite-magnetite oxygen buffer. This discovery provides direct evidence for oxidised conditions on the Moon. Thermodynamic modelling shows that magnetite could have been formed from oxidisation-driven mineral replacement of Fe-metal or desulphurisation from Fe-sulphides (troilite) at low temperatures (°C) in equilibrium with H2O steam/liquid or CO2 gas. Oxidising conditions may have arisen from vapour transport during degassing of a magmatic source region, or from a hybrid endogenic-exogenic process when gases were released during an impacting asteroid or comet impact.
Source Publication Title
Meteoritics and Planetary Science
Joy, K. H., Visscher, C., Zolensky, M. E., Mikouchi, T., Hagiya, K., Ohsumi, K., & Kring, D. A. (2015). Identification of Magnetite in Lunar Regolith Breccia 60016: Evidence for Oxidized Conditions at the Lunar Surface. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 50 (7), 1157. https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.12462