Impact history of the Apollo 17 landing site revealed by U-Pb SIMS ages

Fiona Thiessen*, Alexander A. Nemchin, Joshua F. Snape, Martin J. Whitehouse, Jeremy J. Bellucci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) U-Pb ages of Ca-phosphates from four texturally distinct breccia samples (72255, 76055, 76015, 76215) collected at the Apollo 17 landing site were obtained in an attempt to identify whether they represent a single or several impact event(s). The determined ages, combined with inferences from petrologic relationships, may indicate two or possibly three different impact events at 3920 ± 3 Ma, 3922 ± 5 Ma, and 3930 ± 5 Ma (all errors 2σ). Searching for possible sources of the breccias by calculating the continuous ejecta radii of impact basins and large craters as well as their expected ejecta thicknesses, we conclude that Nectaris, Crisium, Serenitatis, and Imbrium are likely candidates. If the previous interpretation that the micropoikilitic breccias collected at the North Massif represent Serenitatis ejecta is correct, then the average 207Pb/206Pb age of 3930 ± 5 Ma (2σ) dates the formation of the Serenitatis basin. The occurrence of zircon in the breccias sampled at the South Massif, which contain Ca-phosphates yielding an age of 3922 ± 5 Ma (2σ), may indicate that the breccia originated from within the Procellarum KREEP terrane (PKT) and the Imbrium basin appears to be the only basin that could have sourced them. However, this interpretation implies that all basins suggested to fall stratigraphically between Serenitatis and Imbrium formed within a short (<11 Ma) time interval, highlighting serious contradictions between global stratigraphic constraints, sample interpretation, and chronological data. Alternatively, the slightly older age of the two micropoikilitic breccias may be a result of incomplete resetting of the U-Pb system preserved in some phosphate grains. Based on the currently available data set this possibility cannot be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-611
Number of pages28
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


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