The oxygen isotope composition, petrology and geochemistry of mare basalts: Evidence for large-scale compositional variation in the lunar mantle

To investigate the formation and early evolution of the lunar mantle and crust we have analysed the oxygen isotopic composition, titanium content and modal mineralogy of a suite of lunar basalts. Our sample set included eight low-Ti basalts from the Apollo 12 and 15 collections, and 12 high-Ti basalts from Apollo 11 and 17 collections. In addition, we have determined the oxygen isotopic composition of an Apollo 15 KREEP (K - potassium, REE - Rare Earth Element, and P - phosphorus) basalt (sample 15386) and an Apollo 14 feldspathic mare basalt (sample 14053). Our data display a continuum in bulk-rock delta O-18 values, from relatively low values in the most Ti-rich samples to higher values in the Ti-poor samples, with the Apollo 11 sample suite partially bridging the gap. Calculation of bulk-rock delta O-18 values, using a combination of previously published oxygen isotope data on mineral separates from lunar basalts, and modal mineralogy (determined in this study), match with the measured bulk-rock delta O-18 values. This demonstrates that differences in mineral modal assemblage produce differences in mare basalt delta O-18 bulk-rock values. Differences between the low- and high-Ti mare basalts appear to be largely a reflection of mantle-source heterogeneities, and in particular, the highly variable distribution of ilmenite within the lunar mantle. Bulk delta O-18 variation in mare basalts is also controlled by fractional crystallisation of a few key mineral phases. Thus, ilmenite fractionation is important in the case of high-Ti Apollo 17 samples, whereas olivine plays a more dominant role for the low-Ti Apollo 12 samples. Consistent with the results of previous studies, our data reveal no detectable difference between the Delta O-17 of the Earth and Moon. The fact that oxygen three-isotope studies have been unable to detect a measurable difference at such high precisions reinforces doubts about the giant impact hypothesis as presently formulated.


Publication status:
Authors: Hallis, L.J., Anand, M., Greenwood, R.C., Miller, Martin F., Franchi, I.A., Russell, S.S.

On this site: Martin Miller
1 January, 2010
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta / 74
Link to published article: