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Published August 2015 | Published
Journal Article Open

Exploring the Moon's surface for remnants of the lunar mantle 1. Dunite xenoliths in mare basalts. A crustal or mantle origin?


Remotely sensed observations from recent missions (e.g., GRAIL, Kaguya, Chandrayaan-1) have been interpreted as indicating that the deep crust and upper mantle are close to or at the lunar surface in many large impact basins (e.g., Crisium, Apollo, Moscoviense). If this is correct, the capability of either impact or volcanic processes to transport mantle lithologies to the lunar surface should be enhanced in these regions. Somewhat problematic to these observations and interpretations is that examples of mantle lithologies in the lunar sample collection (Apollo Program, Luna Program, lunar meteorites) are at best ambiguous. Dunite xenoliths in high-Ti mare basalt 74275 are one of these ambiguous examples. In this high-Ti mare basalt, olivine occurs in three generations: olivine associated with dunite xenoliths, olivine megacrysts, and olivine microphenocrysts. The dunite xenoliths are anhedral in shape and are generally greater than 800 μm in diameter. The interior of the xenoliths are fairly homogeneous with regard to many divalent cations. For example, the Mg# (Mg/Mg + Fe × 100) ranges from 82 to 83 in their interiors and decreases from 82 to 68 over the 10–30 μm wide outer rim. Titanium and phosphorus X-ray maps of the xenolith illustrate that these slow diffusing elements preserve primary cumulate zoning textures. These textures indicate that the xenoliths consist of many individual olivine grains approximately 150–200 μm in diameter with low Ti, Al, and P cores. These highly incompatible elements are enriched in the outer Fe-rich rims of the xenoliths and slightly enriched in the rims of the individual olivine grains. Highly compatible elements in olivine such as Ni exhibit a decrease in the rim surrounding the xenolith, an increase in the incompatible element depleted cores of the individual olivine grains, and a slight decrease in the "interior rims" of the individual olivine grains. Inferred melt composition, liquid lines of descent, and zoning profiles enable the reconstruction of the petrogenesis of the dunite xenoliths. Preservation of primary magmatic zoning (Ti, P, Al) and lack of textures similar to high-pressure mineral assemblages exhibited by the Mg-suite (Shearer et al. 2015) indicate that these xenoliths do not represent deep crustal or shallow mantle lithologies. Further, they are chemically and mineralogically distinct from Mg-suite dunites identified from the Apollo 17 site. More likely, they represent olivine cumulates that crystallized from a low-Ti mare basalt at intermediate to shallow crustal levels. The parent basalt to the dunite xenolith lithology was more primitive than low-Ti basalts thus far returned from the Moon. Furthermore, this parental magma and its more evolved daughter magmas are not represented in the basalt sample suite returned from the Taurus-Littrow Valley by the Apollo 17 mission. The dunite xenolith records several episodes of crystallization and re-equilibration. During the last episode of re-equilibration, the dunite cumulate was sampled by the 74275 high-Ti basalt and transported over a period of 30–70 days to the lunar surface.

Additional Information

© 2015 The Meteoritical Society. Received 17 November 2014; revision accepted 10 May 2015. The authors thank Brad Jolliff and Rachel Klima for their insightful reviews that substantially improved this manuscript. Associate editor Carle Pieters provided useful comments and timely reviews. CKS acknowledges support from the NASA Cosmochemistry Program and the NASA Lunar Advanced Science for Exploration Research Program during this study (Grant no. NNX13AH85G and NNX13AJ58G to CKS). CRN was supported by subcontract 02235-05 from NASA SSERVI contract NNA14AB07A (PI D. Kring). We are indebted to Yunbin Guan, California Institute of Technology, and the Caltech Microanalysis Center (CMC) for providing access to the ion microprobe facility.

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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023