Letter | Published:

Cryptomare magmatism 4.35 Gyr ago recorded in lunar meteorite Kalahari 009

Nature volume 450, pages 849852 (06 December 2007) | Download Citation


The origin and evolution of the Moon remain controversial1,2, with one of the most important questions for lunar evolution being the timing and duration of basaltic (mare) magmatism1,3,4,5,6,7,8. Here we report the result of ion microprobe U–Pb dating of phosphates in a lunar meteorite, Kalahari 009, which is classified as a very-low-Ti mare-basalt breccia. In situ analyses of five phosphate grains, associated with basaltic clasts, give an age of 4.35 ± 0.15 billion years. These ancient phosphate ages are thought to represent the crystallization ages of parental basalt magma, making Kalahari 009 one of the oldest known mare basalts. We suggest that mare basalt volcanism on the Moon started as early as 4.35 Gyr ago, relatively soon after its formation and differentiation, and preceding the bulk of lunar volcanism which ensued after the late heavy bombardment around 3.8-3.9 Gyr (refs 7 and 8). Considering the extremely low abundances of incompatible elements such as thorium and the rare earth elements in Kalahari 009 (ref. 9) and recent remote-sensing observations illustrating that the cryptomaria tend to be of very-low-Ti basalt type10,11,12, we conclude that Kalahari 009 is our first sample of a very-low-Ti cryptomare from the Moon.

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We thank K. R. Ludwig for providing the Isoplot/Ex program for U–Pb age calibration. We thank A. G. Tindle and J. Berndt-Gerdes for assistance with microprobe work. We thank L. E. Thomas and R. A. Spicer for proof-reading the manuscript for English usage. We also thank L. E. Nyquist and J. Head for their constructive comments. This contribution is an outcome of a joint project between the Hiroshima University and the Open University. This study is partly supported by a Scientific Research Grant of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Itoh Science foundation and the German Research Foundation. M.A. acknowledges support of PPARC and RCUK fellowships.

Author Contributions K.T. and M.A. contributed equally to this work.

Author information


  1. Department of Earth and Planetary Systems Science, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima 739-8526, Japan

    • Kentaro Terada
  2. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CEPSAR, Walton Hall, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK

    • Mahesh Anand
  3. Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK

    • Mahesh Anand
  4. Institut für Planetologie, Wilhelm-Klemm-Strasse 10, 48149 Münster, Germany

    • Anna K. Sokol
    •  & Addi Bischoff
  5. Center for Advanced Marine Research, Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

    • Yuji Sano


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Correspondence to Kentaro Terada or Mahesh Anand.

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