Letter | Published:

Lunar apatite with terrestrial volatile abundances

Nature volume 466, pages 466469 (22 July 2010) | Download Citation


The Moon is thought to be depleted relative to the Earth in volatile elements such as H, Cl and the alkalis1,2,3. Nevertheless, evidence for lunar explosive volcanism4,5 has been used to infer that some lunar magmas exsolved a CO-rich and CO2-rich vapour phase before or during eruption6,7,8. Although there is also evidence for other volatile species on glass spherules9, until recently10 there had been no unambiguous reports of indigenous H in lunar rocks. Here we report quantitative ion microprobe measurements of late-stage apatite from lunar basalt 14053 that document concentrations of H, Cl and S that are indistinguishable from apatites in common terrestrial igneous rocks. These volatile contents could reflect post-magmatic metamorphic volatile addition or growth from a late-stage, interstitial, sulphide-saturated melt that contained 1,600 parts per million H2O and 3,500 parts per million Cl. Both metamorphic and igneous models of apatite formation suggest a volatile inventory for at least some lunar materials that is similar to comparable terrestrial materials. One possible implication is that portions of the lunar mantle or crust are more volatile-rich than previously thought.

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This work was funded by grants from NASA Cosmochemistry (NNX08AG54G to L.A.T. and NNX09AG40G to E.M.S.), the NSF (OCE-0840983 to J.W.B.) and the Moore foundation for support of the Caltech Microanalysis Center.

Author information


  1. Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125-2500, USA

    • Jeremy W. Boyce
    • , George R. Rossman
    • , Yunbin Guan
    • , John M. Eiler
    •  & Edward M. Stolper
  2. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1567, USA

    • Jeremy W. Boyce
  3. Planetary Geosciences Institute, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA

    • Yang Liu
    •  & Lawrence A. Taylor


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J.W.B. led the generation and interpretation of the data, and the writing of the Letter. Y.L. prepared the rock section of 14053, collected BSE and EMP data, and contributed to the data interpretation and paper writing. G.R.R. conducted the infrared analyses of the apatites used for SIMS standards, performed the necessary calibrations of the infrared data and contributed to the data interpretation and paper writing. Y.G. set up the SIMS instrument, assisted in the formulation of the analytical protocol, carried out the SIMS measurements, and assisted in data processing and discussion. J.M.E. is the director of the Caltech Center for Microanalysis, and contributed to the data analysis and paper writing. E.M.S. contributed to the data interpretation and the paper writing. L.A.T initiated the collaboration, was allocated the 14053 sample by NASA, and contributed to the data interpretation and paper writing.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeremy W. Boyce.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Information comprising Sample Description, Analytical Notes, Partition Coefficients, Supplementary Figures 1-5 with legends, References and Supplementary Tables 1-2.

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