The Oldest Moon Rocks

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    Anorthosites, rocks composed almost entirely of plagioclase feldspar, are the oldest rocks on the Moon. They appear to have formed when feldspar crystallized and floated to the top of a global magma ocean that surrounded the Moon soon after it formed. Not all ages determined for anorthosites, however, are as old as we expected--one appeared to be only 4.29 billion years old. While 4.29 billion years sounds very ancient, a magma ocean ought to have solidified well within 100 million years of lunar origin about 4.55 billion years ago. One possibility is that the young ages reflect impact events, not the original time of igneous crystallization. My colleagues Lars Borg (University of New Mexico) and Larry Nyquist and Don Bogard (Johnson Space Center) and I studied an anorthosite (rock 67215) relatively rich in pyroxene, allowing us to determine a precise crystallization age of 4.40 billion years. But even that age might have been affected by the subsequent shock heating event that reset the low-temperature components in this rock about 500 million years after it formed.
    Original languageEnglish
    No.April 21, 2004
    Specialist publicationPlanetary Science Research Discoveries
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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