Secular evolution of water in the lunar mantle

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Environment, Earth & Ecosystems


Water plays a crucial role in geological processes which operate on planetary bodies such as our own Earth. Water affects physical properties of magmas, thermal stabilities of minerals and melts, and control magma eruptive processes. In addition, water is one of the key components influencing the habitability of a planetary body and in the context of in-situ resource utilization on other planetary bodies, such as the Moon, it will be an invaluable resource for life-support, and a key resource for generating rocket fuel. Since the Apollo era, the Moon has always been considered bone dry, especially with respect to water in lunar magmas. Amongst the most exciting recent discoveries is the presence of significant quantities of water on the lunar surface at lower latitudes as confirmed by a number of spacecraft missions (India's Chandrayaan-1 and NASA's LRO and LCROSS). These findings have been corroborated by recent, earth-based, laboratory analysis of lunar samples which suggest significant quantities of indigenous water in lunar magmas. Although the first demonstration of water in lunar magmas came from direct measurement of volcanic glasses, since they formed in violent, 'fire-fountain' eruptions, they possibly degassed losing much of lunar magmatic water upon eruption. The new detections of water have come from apatite crystals found in mare basalts. Because the basalt came from quieter eruptions than the fire fountains that formed the glasses, the apatite crystals are better repository of lunar water and may provide better constraints on the original water content of the lunar magmas and by proxy the water content of the lunar mantle. Chronological studies of mare-basalts returned by Apollo and Luna missions have revealed that the basaltic volcanism on the Moon occurred between 3.9 Ga and 3.1 Ga ago, leading to the hypothesis that mare volcanism occurred mainly after the late heavy bombardment around 3.8-3.9 Ga. However, recent chronological studies of lunar basalts have significantly expanded our knowledge of the duration of basaltic volcanism on the Moon extending the age range from 2.9 to 4.35 Ga, leading to speculation that basaltic volcanism on the Moon began within the first 150 Ma of Solar System formation, much earlier than previously thought. This hypothesis may be tested by examining examples of mare-basalts suspected to be older than 3.9 Ga, notably as clasts in breccias from Apollo site 14. Therefore, one of the aims of this proposal is to carry out age dating of mare-basalts to determine the total range of ages recorded in lunar basalts to place limits on the duration of mare volcanism. Crucially, basalts are the dominant products of planetary melting providing a window into planetary interiors by which we can understand the physical and chemical makeup and evolution of planetary bodies after accretion. Since the Moon is the only planetary body, apart from Earth, from which we have rock-samples (including basalts from known locations), lunar sample studies can provide an unrivalled dataset with which we can understand the mechanisms of planetary formation and subsequent evolution during that critical time period not recorded in terrestrial samples. We propose to carry out a coupled study of determining the volcanic history of the Moon along with measuring and assessing water contents in lunar basalts and their source regions. We will target apatites which are shown to be the main repository of water in lunar basalts while being amenable to in-situ radiometric age dating, giving crystallization ages for mare magma, sourced from the lunar mantle. Therefore, our proposed work will provide a comprehensive dataset with which we will be able to investigate the secular variation of water in the lunar mantle, thereby, providing a ground-breaking research output with far-reaching implications for our understanding of the structure and evolution of the Moon and other similar terrestrial bodies in our Solar System.


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Abernethy F (2013) Stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen in angrites in Meteoritics & Planetary Science

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Anand M (2014) Understanding the origin and evolution of water in the Moon through lunar sample studies. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Barnes J (2016) Investigating the History of Magmatic Volatiles in the Moon Using NanoSIMS in Microscopy and Microanalysis

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Barnes J (2014) The origin of water in the primitive Moon as revealed by the lunar highlands samples in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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Barnes J (2016) Early degassing of lunar urKREEP by crust-breaching impact(s) in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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Barnes JJ (2016) An asteroidal origin for water in the Moon. in Nature communications

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Barrett T (2016) The abundance and isotopic composition of water in eucrites in Meteoritics & Planetary Science

Description We have discovered that the interior of the Moon is not completely dry as thought previously and that the source of this water in the lunar interior was most similar to a group of primitive meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites. We also discovered water in mineral apatite from some of the oldest Moon rocks suggesting that the Earth and Moon may have inherited water from a common source and that at least some water may have survived the violent collision between the Proto Earth and an impactor that gave rise to the Moon. In order to achieve these results, we developed new analytical methods for measuring the ages, water contents and its associated isotopic composition using a Nano Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS) based at the Open University.
Exploitation Route Our research has highlighted the importance of continued investigations of Apollo lunar samples for their ages and volatile elements (water, carbon, nitrogen) budget using modern analytical techniques and instrumentations in order to establish the history of volatile elements delivery in the inner Solar System. Such information is crucial for improving our understanding of the origin and and evolution of life on Earth.
Sectors Education

Description Findings from our research have been used by researchers around the world investigating the history of water in the inner Solar System. As a direct result of our research findings, many new collaborations have been established with colleagues from around the world who are keen to utilise our analytical skills and advancements in analysing apatites in planetary samples for measuring their water contents and associated isotopic compositions.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education
Impact Types Economic

Description Natural History Museum 
Organisation Natural History Museum
Department Department of Mineralogy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Co-supervised PhD students funded by the Natural History Museum.
Collaborator Contribution Co-supervision of PhD students based at the Open University.
Impact Publications: (1) J.J. Barnes, R. Tartese, M. Anand, F. McCubbin, I.A. Franchi, N.A. Starkey, S.S. Russell (2014). The origin of water in the primitive Moon as revealed by the lunar highlands samples, EPSL, 390, 244-252. (2) Barnes, J.J., Franchi, I.A., Anand, M., Tartèse, R., Starkey, N.A., Koike, M., Sano, Y. & Russell, S.S. (2013), Accurate and precise measurements of the D/H ratio and hydroxyl content in lunar apatites using NanoSIMS, Chemical Geology 337-338, 48-55. (3) Hallis, L.J., Anand, M., Greenwood, R.C., Miller, M.F., Franchi, I.A., Russell, S.S. (2010) The oxygen isotope composition, petrology and geochemistry of mare basalts: Evidence for large-scale compositional variation in the lunar mantle, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 74, 6885-6899. (4) Joy, K.H., Crawford, I.A., Anand., M., Greenwood, R.C., Franchi, I.A., Russell, S.S., 2008. The Petrology and Geochemistry of Miller Range 05035: A New Lunar Gabbroic Meteorite, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 72, 3822-3844. (5) Anand., M., Russell, S.S., Blackhurst, R.L. and Grady, M.M., 2006. Searching for signatures of life on Mars: An Fe isotope perspective, Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. B, v. 361, (1474) 1715-1720.
Description OU-New Mexico partnership 
Organisation University of New Mexico
Department Institute of Meteoritics
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborated with colleagues at the University of New Mexico for carrying out analytical measurements on a suite of lunar samples.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborator provided the necessary lunar samples for analysis and participated in data interpretation and manuscript writing.
Impact This collaboration has resulted in two peer-reviewed publications and several conference abstracts as listed below: 1) Tartèse, R., Anand, M., McCubbin, F., Elardo. S.M., Shearer, C.K., Franchi, I.A. (2014), Apatites in lunar KREEP basalts: The missing link to understanding the H isotope systematics of the Moon. Geology, In Press. 2) J.J. Barnes, R. Tartese, M. Anand, F. McCubbin, I.A. Franchi, N.A. Starkey, S.S. Russell (2014). The origin of water in the primitive Moon as revealed by the lunar highlands samples, EPSL, 390, 244-252. 3) F. M. McCubbin, K. E. Vander Kaaden, R. Tartèse, E. S. Whitson, M. Anand, I. A. Franchi, S. Mikhail, G. Ustunisik, E. H. Hauri, J. Wang, and J. W. Boyce (2014) APATITE-MELT PARTITIONING IN BASALTIC MAGMAS: THE IMPORTANCE OF EXCHANGE EQUILIBRIA AND THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF THE OH COMPONENT IN HALOGEN-RICH APATITE. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Abs# 2741. 4) R. Tartèse, J. J. Barnes, M. Anand, F. M. McCubbin, N. A. Starkey, I. A. Franchi, S. M. Elardo, C. K. Shearer (2014) WATER CONTENT AND HYDROGEN ISOTOPIC COMPOSITION OF APATITE IN KREEP AND HIGH-AL MARE BASALTS: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON WATER IN THE MOON. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Abs# 1999. 5) R. Tartèse, M. Anand, F. M. McCubbin, A. R. Santos and T. Delhaye (2014) ZIRCONS IN NORTHWEST AFRICA 7034: RECORDERS OF CRUSTAL EVOLUTION ON MARS. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Abs# 2020. 6)
Start Year 2013
Description OU-University of Hawaii partnership 
Organisation University of Hawaii
Department Institute of Geophysics and Planetology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This collaboration involved analysis of selected lunar samples using analytical instrumentation and techniques developed at the Open University.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators provided the lunar samples and participated in data collection and interpretation.
Impact 1) K.L. Robinson, J.J. Barnes, R. Tartèse, K. Nagashima, L.J. Hallis, I.A. Franchi , M. Anand, and G.J. Taylor (2014) PRIMITIVE LUNAR WATER IN EVOLVED ROCKS? Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Abs# 1607. 2) K. L. Robinson, J. J. Barnes, R. Tartèse, L. J. Hallis, I. A. Franchi , M. Anand and G. J. Taylor (2014) APATITE IN ALLAN HILLS 81005 AND THE ORIGIN OF WATER IN THE LUNAR MAGMA OCEAN. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Abs# 2413.
Start Year 2013
Description Topical Team on Exploitation of Local Planetary Resources 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I lead a group of leading academics and researchers active in the field of in-situ resource utilisation of planetary materials to organise workshops and provide feedback to the European Space Agency about Science that can inform and enable exploration of planetary materials on the surfaces of Earth's neighbouring planetary bodies such as the Moon and Mars.
Collaborator Contribution The team members bring critical insights and a wealth of experience to bear on the topic of in situ resource utilisation on the Moon and other similar planetary bodies relevant to human destinations in foreseeable future.
Impact Anand, M.; Crawford, I. A.; Balat-Pichelin, M.; Abanades, S.; van Westrenen, W.; Péraudeau, G.; Jaumann, R. and Seboldt, W. (2012). A brief review of chemical and mineralogical resources on the Moon and likely initial in situ resource utilization (ISRU) applications. Planetary And Space Science, 74 (1), 42-48.
Start Year 2011
Description Origin of the Moon Meeting - Royal Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact I presented the work of my research group to an audience of ~50 people representing the international lunar science community and included some of the highest-profile researchers from the field of Lunar and Planetary Sciences.

It raised the profile of our research at the international stage which led subsequently to invitations for keynote talks at other meetings and conferences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Rocks from Space 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Multiple visits to local primary schools to engage 5-7 year olds with hands on activities involving meteorite handling, viewing a polished rock section using a geological microscope and listening to brief talks about rock cycle on Earth and the origin of the Solar System and meteorites.

We have made many repeat visits to local primary schools at their request. The topics covered during our visits complement some aspects of national curriculum for 5-7 year olds at primary schools in England and Wales. We are now receiving more requests from local primary schools than we can accommodate which demonstrates the popularity of our workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
Description Science and Challenges of Lunar Sample Return 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact I served on the expert panel discussing Science and Challenges of the Lunar Sample Return in light of new missions proposed for sampling new materials from previously unvisited areas of the Moon.

The panel discussion helped focus the community's mind on the top science questions that can be addressed by future lunar sample return missions and what challenges we face in undertaking such missions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014