The crystalline lunar spherules: Their formation and implications for the origin of meteoritic chondrules

by Symes, S. J. K.; Sears, D. W. G.; Akridge, D. G.; Huang, S. X.; Benoit, P. H.

Crystalline lunar spherules (CLS) from three thin sections of Apollo 14 regolith breccias (14318,6; 14318,48 and 14315,20) have been examined, The objects have been classified and their abundances, size distributions, bulk compositions, and (where possible) plagioclase compositions determined. By number, 64% consist predominantly of very fine-grained equant plagioclase grains but can also contain larger (similar to 50 mu m) feldspar crystals (type X), while 22% contain plagioclase lathes in a fine-grained mafic mesostasis (type Y). Plagioclase in both spherule types displays bright yellow cathodoluminescence that is conspicuous among the blue CL of the normal feldspar of the breccias. Type Z spherules (5%) contain feldspar with blue CL and minor amounts of olivine and pyroxene. Type Q spherules (4%) contain feldspar with yellow CL but in a luminescent mesostasis (of quartz or feldspar?). A few spherules are mixtures of type Y and type X textures. Most type X spherules, and a few type Y spherules, have fine-grained opaque rims. Compound objects were also found and consist of two or more CLS that appear to have collided while still plastic or molten. The CLS are thought to be impact spherules that crystallized in free flight, their coarse textures suggesting fairly slow cooling rates (similar to <1 degrees C/s). The abundance of the CLS resembles that of chondrules in the CM chondrite Murchison, and their cumulative size-frequency distributions are very similar to those of the chondrules in several meteorite classes. The bulk compositions of the CLS do not resemble regoliths at any of the Apollo sites, including Apollo 14, or any of the common impact glasses, but they do resemble the bulk compositions of several lunar meteorites and the impact glasses they contain. The Apollo 14 site is located on a region containing Imbrium ejecta, and we suggest that the CLS derive from the Imbrium impact. Ballistic calculations indicate that only impact events of this size on the Moon are capable of producing melt spherules with the required free flight times and slow cooling rates. Smaller impacts produce glassy spherules and agglutinates. As has been pointed out many times, the CLS have many properties in common with meteoritic chondrules. While much remains unclear, difficulties with a nebular origin and new developments in chondrule chronology, studies of asteroid surfaces and impact ejecta behavior, and the present observations indicate that meteoritic chondrules could have formed by impact.

Meteoritics and Planetary Science
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1945-5100; 1086-9379