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The global distribution of pure anorthosite on the Moon


It has been thought that the lunar highland crust was formed by the crystallization and floatation of plagioclase from a global magma ocean1,2, although the actual generation mechanisms are still debated2,3. The composition of the lunar highland crust is therefore important for understanding the formation of such a magma ocean and the subsequent evolution of the Moon. The Multiband Imager4 on the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE)5 has a high spatial resolution of optimized spectral coverage, which should allow a clear view of the composition of the lunar crust. Here we report the global distribution of rocks of high plagioclase abundance (approaching 100 vol.%), using an unambiguous plagioclase absorption band recorded by the SELENE Multiband Imager. If the upper crust indeed consists of nearly 100 vol.% plagioclase, this is significantly higher than previous estimates of 82–92 vol.% (refs 2, 6, 7), providing a valuable constraint on models of lunar magma ocean evolution.

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Figure 1: Locations of the 69 areas of investigation plotted on the USGS Clementine 750-nm basemap.
Figure 2: Results of Jackson analyses.
Figure 3: Results of spatial and spectral analyses of South Ray, Tycho, Tsiolkovsky and Orientale.
Figure 4: Comparison of two different spatial resolutions at Orientale.


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We thank SELENE project team members Y. Takizawa, S. Sasaki, M. Kato and R. Nagashima. We also thank Fujitsu Limited engineers T. Maekawa, K. Tsubosaka, N. Tonoya, J. Inoue, N. Masuda and T. Nakashima. We are grateful to Mitsubishi Space Software Co. Ltd engineers M. Hashimoto, K. Torii, Y. Kurashina, A. Yoshizawa and S. Nakanotani. The long-term efforts by each of these teams were essential to our work. We are also grateful to P. G. Lucey for the optical constants of some minerals. The reviews by P. Warren and J. Longhi are much appreciated.

Author Contributions H.O., T.H., H.T., Y. Yamaguchi and T. Matsunaga suggested the original design of the Multiband Imager. M.O. finished the design and proposed the Multiband Imager observations. M.O., T. Matsunaga, J.H., H.O., J.T., T.S., N.H., R.N., H.D., S.M., S.K., Y. Yokota, T. Morota, C.H., Y.O., M.T., K.S., A.I. and N.A. developed the instrument and data processing system. T. Morota, C.H., M.T., M.O., T. Matsunaga, J.H., Y. Yokota, Y.O. and M.A. conducted the operation of the observation. M.O. and Y. Yokota conducted calibration and data analyses for this paper. M.O., T.A., H.M., H.T., Y. Yokota, N.H., R.N., T.H., J.H., T. Morota, K.K., T.S., K.S., T. Matsunaga, Y.O., S.S., A.Y. and C.M.P. contributed to writing the paper. All the authors, including M.S., H.A. and J.-L.J., discussed the results.

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Correspondence to Makiko Ohtake.

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Ohtake, M., Matsunaga, T., Haruyama, J. et al. The global distribution of pure anorthosite on the Moon. Nature 461, 236–240 (2009).

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