Searching for Indigenous Noble Gases in the Moon: Vacuum Crushing of Vesicular Basalt 15016 and Stepwise Heating of Anorthosites 60025, 60215 and 65315 Aliquots
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Despite extensive efforts during the last four decades, no primordial signature of lunar xenon has been found. In order to further investigate the possible occurrence of indigenous volatiles in the Moon, we have analysed the noble gas and nitrogen isotopic compositions in two different sets of samples. Vacuum crushing of highly vesicular (~50% by volume) basalt 15016 (3.4 b.y. old, 300 m.y. exposure age) releases large amounts of spallation-produced gases that overshadow any other component. Lunar anorthosites 60025, 60215 and 65315 have the lowest exposure duration (~2m.y.) among Apollo samples. Consequently, they contain only limited cosmogenic (e.g. 124,126Xe) and solar wind noble gases. Furthermore, anorthosite is poor in U and Pu, leading to negligible contribution of fissiogenic Xe isotopes. These properties make these samples ideal for searching for lunar primordial noble gases. As observed in previous studies [1-3], lunar anorthosite Xe presents an isotopic composition very close to that of terrestrial atmosphere, which has been previously attributed to "abnormal adsorption" of terrestrial Xe after sample return. This presumed atmospheric Xe contamination can only be removed by heating the samples at medium to high temperature under vacuum, and is therefore different from common adsorption. In order to investigate this abnormal adsorption, uncrushed gravels of lunar anorthosite were exposed to a neutral Xe-rich atmosphere. Infrared reflectance spectrometry of processed, and unprocessed, samples shows a shift in the anorthosite's peak of the former, possibly corresponding to chemical Xe bonding. This phenomenon could explain the difficulties met for forty years when investigating a lunar primordial xenon component in anorthosites. However, our high precision Xe isotope analysis shows a systematic trend toward depletion in the heavy Xe isotopes (134Xe and 136Xe) not seen before. This leads us to make a tantalising parallel between the indigenous component in theses samples and primordial U-Xe , inferred on theoretical ground to be the precursor of atmospheric Xe but never clearly identified.  Lightner and Marti (1974) Proc. Lunar Sci. Conf. 5th,  Niemeyer and Leich (1976) Proc. Lunar Sci. Conf. 7th,  Niedermann and Eugster (1992) Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta,  Pepin (2000) Space Sci. Rev.