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Abstract

Defining the age of the Moon has proven to be an elusive task because it requires reliably dating lunar samples using radiometric isotopic systems that record fractionation of parent and daughter elements during events that are petrologically associated with planet formation. Crystallization of the magma ocean is the only event that unambiguously meets this criterion because it probably occurred within tens of millions of years of Moon formation. There are three dateable crystallization products of the magma ocean: mafic mantle cumulates, felsic crustal cumulates, and late-stage crystallization products known as urKREEP (uniform residuum K, rare earth elements, and P). Although ages for these materials in the literature span 200 million years, there is a preponderance of reliable ages around 4.35 billion years recorded in all three lunar rock types. This age is also observed in many secondary crustal rocks, indicating that they were produced contemporaneously (within uncertainty of the ages), possibly during crystallization and overturn of the magma ocean.

  • ▪  The duration of planet formation is key information in understanding the mechanisms by which the terrestrial planets formed.
  • ▪  Ages of the oldest lunar rocks range widely, reflecting either the duration of Moon formation or disturbed ages caused by impact metamorphism.
  • ▪  Ages determined for compositionally distinct crust and mantle materials produced by lunar magma ocean differentiation cluster near 4.35 Gyr.
  • ▪  The repeated occurrence of 4.35 Gyr ages implies that Moon formation occurred late in Solar System history, likely by giant impact into Earth.

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2023-05-31
2024-04-24
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