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Title: Unravelling the history of the lunar regolith
Author: Curran, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 8328
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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The lunar regolith is sensitive to the bombardment history of the Moon and contains a wealth of knowledge regarding the types of processes that have modified the lunar crust through time. Noble gases that are produced and trapped in the lunar regolith, as a result of this interaction with the space environment, can be used to determine the cosmic ray exposure age, maturity, shielding depth and antiquity age of lunar regolith samples. This thesis aims to probe this temporal archive to further understand the impact history of the Moon contained within the regolith. Initially, all the published noble gas literature data for the Apollo regolith breccias, drill cores and soils was compiled into a database where trapped and cosmogenic noble gas component were calculated. These data were used to summarise the history of the lunar regolith contained in the Apollo sample archive. A dichotomy between the "ancient" (determined by the antiquity indicator using the 40Ar/36Artr ratio) regolith samples and those formed in more recent times has been described previously (e.g., McKay et al., 1986).The ancient breccias and soils (>~3.5 Ga) have typically experienced limited amounts of surface exposure (i.e., they are 'immature'). Whereas, regolith samples formed in more recent times ( < 3.5 Ga, << 2 Ga) show a range of maturities. It is likely that the difference in maturity between the ancient and younger breccias reflects the changing collisional conditions of the time i.e., impact flux and regolith turnover rates. Here, 12 lunar meteorite regolith breccias were analysed for their noble gas content (Ne, Ar, Xe isotopes) to determine if lunar meteorites show the same difference between (40Ar/36Ar)tr ratio and maturity. Lunar meteorites in this study and previously published data do show the same negative correlation between (40Ar/36Ar)tr ratio and maturity. Furthermore, many of the lunar meteorite samples have (40Ar/36Ar)tr ratio between 1 and 2.5 indicating antiquity ages of approximately 1-2 Ga. This potentially reflects a declining period of random intermediate impacts bracketing the period between the 'ancient' and 'recent' samples. The same techniques were applied to newly discovered lunar meteorite MIL 13317. This included a full petrology description, mineral chemistry, U-Pb and Pb-Pb ages, and analysis of noble gas content to decipher the regolith history of this new sample. The meteorite is a mixture of mare and highland components (including mare basalts, FAN, Mg-suite and KREEP) with ancient ages (~ 4.3Ga) and a complex regolith history (exposure age ~500 to 800 Ma, antiquity age ~1.92 Ga). MIL 13317 is an important addition to the lunar collection as it contains material from previously unsampled areas of the Moon which is interpreted here to be associated with the northern regions of the Procellarum KREEP Terrane. Work was also begun on Apollo 16 regolith breccias using the same analytical techniques. However, due to instrument issues and friable samples much of the work was not completed and will be continued after the PhD. Understanding the data collected here and the techniques used will feed forward to future missions to the Moon to understand noble gas concentrations in the lunar regolith.
Supervisor: Burgess, Raymond Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: noble gases ; Apollo 16 ; Lunar regolith