Using Size and Composition to Assess the Quality of Lunar Impact Glass Ages


Determining the impact chronology of the Moon is an important yet challenging problem in planetary science even after decades of lunar samples and other analyses. In addition to crater counting statistics, orbital data, and dynamical models, well-constrained lunar sample ages are critical for proper interpretation of the Moon’s impact chronology. To understand which properties of lunar impact glasses yield well-constrained ages, we evaluated the compositions and sizes of 119 Apollo 14, 15, 16, and 17 impact glass samples whose compositions and 40Ar/39Ar ages have already been published, and we present new data on 43 others. These additional data support previous findings that the composition and size of the glass are good indicators of the quality of the age plateau derived for each sample. We have further constrained those findings: Glasses of ≥200 μm with a fraction of non-bridging oxygens (X(NBO)) of ≥0.23 and a K2O (wt%) of ≥0.07 are prime candidates for argon analyses and more likely to yield well-constrained 40Ar/39Ar ages. As a result, science resulting from impact glass analyses is maximized while analytical costs per glass are minimized. This has direct implications for future analyses of glass samples for both those in the current lunar collection and those that have yet to be collected.

Geosciences, 9(2)
Pham Nguyen
Pham Nguyen
Mainframe Developer

I am an amateur astronomer and a former academic who loves data and programming.