The University of Arizona

40Ar-39Ar chronology of lunar meteorites Northwest Africa 032 and 773

V. A. Fernandes, R. Burgess, G. Turner


The 40Ar-39Ar dating technique has been applied to the lunar meteorites Northwest Africa 032 (NWA 032), an unbrecciated mare basalt, and Northwest Africa 773 (NWA 773), (composed of cumulate and breccia lithologies), to determine the crystallization age and timing of shock events these meteorites may have experienced. Stepped heating analyses of several different samples of NWA 032 gave complex age spectra but indistinguishable total ages with a mean of 2.779 ± 0.014 Gyr. Possible causes of the complex age spectra obtained from NWA 032 include recoil of 39Ar, or the presence of pre-shock 40Ar incorporated into shock-melt veins. The effects of shock veins were investigated by laser fusion of 20 small samples expected to contain varying proportions of the shock veins. The laser ages show a narrow age distribution between 2.61-­2.86 Gyr and a mean of 2.73 ±  0.03 Gyr, identical to the total age of ~2.80 Gyr obtained for the bulk sample. Diffusion calculations based on the stepped heating data indicate that Ar release can be reconciled by release from feldspar (and possibly shock veins) at low temperatures followed by pyroxene at higher temperatures. The exposure age of NWA 032 is 212 ±  11 Myr, and it contains low trapped solar Ar. Stepped heating of cumulate and breccia portions of NWA 773 also give a relatively young age of 2.91 Gyr. The presence of trapped Ar in the breccia makes the age determination of this component less precise, but release of Ar appears to be from the same mineral phase, assumed to be plagioclase, in both lithologies. A marked difference in exposure age between the 2 lithologies also exists, with the breccia having spent 81 Myr longer at the lunar surface; this finding is consistent with the higher trapped Ar content of this lithology. Assuming that 2.80 Gyr and 2.91 Gyr are the crystallization ages of NWA 032 and NWA 773 respectively, these two meteorites are the youngest lunar mare basalts available for study.


NWA 773;NWA 032;Mare meteorites;40Ar-39Ar dating;Lunar volcanism

Full Text: