Temporally limited late accretion after core formation in the Moon

James M. D. Day, Marine Paquet

Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Version of Record online: 24 March 2021


“Highly siderophile element (HSE: Au, Re, Pd, Pt, Rh, Ru, Ir, Os) abundances in planetary silicate mantles provide constraints on accretion and differentiation, as well as late accretion additions after core formation. The first in situ analyses of the HSE in mare basalt sulfide and metal phases enable the determination of the distribution of these elements during fractional crystallization processes. Metals have low Ni/Co (<8) and strong HSE inter‐element fractionation (Pd/Ir = 18–100) and, with troilite (Ni/Co < 4.2, Pd/Ir = 14–74), host 75–100% of the HSE in mare basalts. The compositions of these metal and sulfide grains are inconsistent with assimilation of impact‐contaminated HSE‐rich regolith materials. Furthermore, regolith contamination cannot explain the threshold of abundances of iridium (~50 ppt) in mare basalt bulk rock compositions. Instead, bulk rock mare basalts have HSE patterns consistent with inheritance from partial melting of mantle sources with no residual metal or sulfide. Mare basalt HSE and siderophile element abundances can be accounted for by their mantle sources recording prior separation of a small lunar core, fractionating Ni/Co and Hf/W and removing ~99% of the HSE after lunar formation. Following this event, late accretion of ~0.02% of lunar mass led to limited enrichment of the HSE in chondritic‐relative abundances. Signatures of core formation preclude elevated HSE abundances in the lunar silicate interior and indicate that disproportional late accretion in the Earth–Moon system may, in part, be due to later core formation in the Moon relative to Earth.”