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

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.

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Figure 1: Correlations between water and other volatile content in the lunar volcanic glasses.
Figure 2: Volatile concentration profiles from core to rim in a single bead of the very-low-Ti glasses.

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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.

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Correspondence to Alberto E. Saal.

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Saal, A., Hauri, E., Cascio, M. et al. Volatile content of lunar volcanic glasses and the presence of water in the Moon’s interior. Nature 454, 192–195 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07047

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