Letter | Published:

Volatile content of lunar volcanic glasses and the presence of water in the Moon’s interior

Nature volume 454, pages 192195 (10 July 2008) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

The Moon is generally thought to have formed and evolved through a single or a series of catastrophic heating events1, during which most of the highly volatile elements were lost. Hydrogen, being the lightest element, is believed to have been completely lost during this period2. Here we make use of considerable advances in secondary ion mass spectrometry3 to obtain improved limits on the indigenous volatile (CO2, H2O, F, S and Cl) contents of the most primitive basalts in the Moon—the lunar volcanic glasses. Although the pre-eruptive water content of the lunar volcanic glasses cannot be precisely constrained, numerical modelling of diffusive degassing of the very-low-Ti glasses provides a best estimate of 745 p.p.m. water, with a minimum of 260 p.p.m. at the 95 per cent confidence level. Our results indicate that, contrary to prevailing ideas, the bulk Moon might not be entirely depleted in highly volatile elements, including water. Thus, the presence of water must be considered in models constraining the Moon’s formation and its thermal and chemical evolution.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Dynamics of lunar formation. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 42, 441–475 (2004)

  2. 2.

    et al. in New Views of the Moon. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry Vol. 60 (eds Jolliff, B. L., Wieczorek, M. A., Shearer, C. K. & Niel, C. R.) 83–219 (Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, Virginia, 2006)

  3. 3.

    , & Partitioning of water during melting of the Earth’s upper mantle at H2O-undersaturated conditions. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 248, 715–734 (2006)

  4. 4.

    & The influence of water on melting of mantle peridotite. Contrib. Mineral. Petrol. 131, 323–346 (1998)

  5. 5.

    & Water in the oceanic upper mantle: implications for rheology, melt extraction and the evolution of the lithosphere. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 144, 93–108 (1996)

  6. 6.

    & The importance of water to oceanic mantle melting regimes. Nature 421, 815–820 (2003)

  7. 7.

    et al. in New Views of the Moon. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry Vol. 60 (eds Jolliff, B. L., Wieczorek, M. A., Shearer, C. K. & Niel, C. R.) 221–364 (Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, Virginia, 2006)

  8. 8.

    & The isotopic composition and concentration of water, hydrogen and carbon in some Apollo 15 and 16 soils and in the Apollo 17 orange soil. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 2, 1559–1575 (1973)

  9. 9.

    & Volatile-rich lunar soil: evidence of possible cometary impact. Science 179, 69–71 (1973)

  10. 10.

    & Magmatic volatiles in primitive lunar glasses; I, FTIR and EPMA analyses of Apollo 15 green and yellow glasses and revision of the volatile-assisted fire-fountain theory. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 59, 201–215 (1995)

  11. 11.

    , & in Proc. 6th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. Vol. 2 2189–2200 (Pergamon, New York, 1975)

  12. 12.

    & in Proc. 6th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. Vol. 2 1737–1751 (Pergamon, New York, 1975)

  13. 13.

    , & in Proc. 8th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. Vol. 2 1417–1428 (Pergamon, New York, 1977)

  14. 14.

    , & in Proc. 25th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. 325–326 (Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, 1994)

  15. 15.

    , & Magmatic processes that produced lunar fire fountains. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 20–21 (2003b)

  16. 16.

    in Proc. 10th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. Vol. 1 275–300 (Pergamon, New York, 1979)

  17. 17.

    Pristine lunar glasses; criteria, data, and implications. J. Geophys. Res. 91, D201–D213 (1986)

  18. 18.

    et al. in New Views of the Moon. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry Vol. 60 (eds Jolliff, B. L., Wieczorek, M. A., Shearer, C. K. & Niel, C. R.) 365–518 (Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, Virginia, 2006)

  19. 19.

    , & Green spherules from Apollo 15: Inferences about their origin from inert gas measurements. The Moon 7, 132–148 (1973)

  20. 20.

    et al. in Proc. 8th Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. Vol. 2 3059–3082 (Pergamon, New York, 1977)

  21. 21.

    & A model for the thermal and chemical evolution of the Moon's interior; implications for the onset of mare volcanism. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 134, 501–514 (1995)

  22. 22.

    & Equilibration in the aftermath of the lunar-forming giant impact. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 262, 438–449 (2007)

  23. 23.

    , , & Can planetesimals leftover from terrestrial planet formation produce the lunar Late Heavy Bombardment? Icarus 190, 203–223 (2007)

  24. 24.

    Mass flux in the ancient Earth–Moon system and benign implications for the origin of life on Earth. J. Geophys. Res. 107 5022 10.1029/2001JE001583 (2002)

  25. 25.

    , , & Magmatic δ18O in 4400–3900 Ma detrital zircons: A record of the alteration and recycling of crust in the Early Archean. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 235, 663–681 (2005)

  26. 26.

    , , & Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago. Nature 409, 175–178 (2001)

  27. 27.

    , & Oxygen-isotope evidence from ancient zircons for liquid water at the Earth’s surface 4,300 Myr ago. Nature 409, 178–181 (2001)

  28. 28.

    The Mathematics of Diffusion (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK, 1975)

  29. 29.

    & Application of the ion probe to geochemistry and cosmochemistry. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 10, 483–526 (1982)

  30. 30.

    & in Electron Probe Quantitation (eds Heinrich, K. F. J. & Newberry, D. E.) 31–75 (Plenum, New York, 1991)

  31. 31.

    et al. SIMS analysis of volatiles in silicate glasses: 1. Calibration, matrix effects and comparisons with FTIR. Chem. Geol. 183, 99–114 (2002)

  32. 32.

    , , & Hydrogen concentration analyses using SIMS and FTIR; comparison and calibration for nominally anhydrous minerals. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 4 10.1029/2002GC000378 (2003)

  33. 33.

    , & Hydrogen partition coefficients between nominally anhydrous minerals and basaltic melts. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31 10.1029/2004GL021341 (2004)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank J. Delano for guidance on sample selection, P. Hess for exchange of ideas, M. Chaussidon, J. Longhi and T. Grove for reviews, J. Wang and J. Devine for technical assistance, and the NASA Cosmochemistry programme and the NASA Astrobiology Institute for support.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA

    • Alberto E. Saal
    • , Mauro L. Cascio
    • , Malcolm C. Rutherford
    •  & Reid F. Cooper
  2. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington DC 20015, USA

    • Erik H. Hauri
  3. Department of Geological Sciences Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

    • James A. Van Orman

Authors

  1. Search for Alberto E. Saal in:

  2. Search for Erik H. Hauri in:

  3. Search for Mauro L. Cascio in:

  4. Search for James A. Van Orman in:

  5. Search for Malcolm C. Rutherford in:

  6. Search for Reid F. Cooper in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alberto E. Saal.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary information

    This file contains supplementary text and references, Supplementary Tables 1-5 and Supplementary Figures 1-7.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07047

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.