Water in lunar anorthosites and evidence for a wet early Moon


The Moon was thought to be anhydrous since the Apollo era1, but this view has been challenged by detections of water on the lunar surface2,3,4 and in volcanic rocks5,6,7,8,9 and regolith10. Part of this water is thought to have been brought through solar-wind implantation2,3,4,7,10 and meteorite impacts2,3,7,11, long after the primary lunar crust formed from the cooling magma ocean12,13. Here we show that this primary crust of the Moon contains significant amounts of water. We analysed plagioclase grains in lunar anorthosites thought to sample the primary crust, obtained in the Apollo missions, using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and detected approximately 6 ppm water. We also detected up to 2.7 ppm water in plagioclase grains in troctolites also from the lunar highland upper crust. From these measurements, we estimate that the initial water content of the lunar magma ocean was approximately 320 ppm; water accumulating in the final residuum of the lunar magma ocean could have reached 1.4 wt%, an amount sufficient to explain water contents measured in lunar volcanic rocks. The presence of water in the primary crust implies a more prolonged crystallization of the lunar magma ocean than a dry moon scenario and suggests that water may have played a key role in the genesis of lunar basalts.

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Figure 1: Representative polarized FTIR spectra of plagioclase from FANs.
Figure 2: FTIR spectra of plagioclase from 15415,238 before and after heating at 1,000 °C for 24 h.
Figure 3: Water contents in LMO products and mantle sources of basalts through time.
Figure 4: Representative polarized FTIR spectra of troctolite 76535,164.


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This work was supported by NASA (NNX11AH48G to H.H. and NNX10AH74G to Y.Z.). We thank the Apollo sample curators for allocating us the samples and G. Rossman for providing an aliquot of plagioclase GRR1968. H.H. thanks Y. Chen for technical assistance on heating experiments and electron microprobe analyses, and D. Draper and the LPI for help to access the JSC facility. This manuscript was greatly improved by the suggestions and comments of E. A. Johnson.

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H.H. conceived this study and performed the analyses and experiments. Y.Z. provided the terrestrial plagioclase grains. A.H.P and Y.Z. assisted in experiments and FTIR analyses. H.H., A.H.P., Y.Z. and C.R.N. discussed the data and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Hejiu Hui.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hui, H., Peslier, A., Zhang, Y. et al. Water in lunar anorthosites and evidence for a wet early Moon. Nature Geosci 6, 177–180 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1735

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