A micrometeorite from a stony asteroid identified in Luna 16 soil

S. I. Demidova, M. J. Whitehouse, R. Merle, A. A. Nemchin, G. G. Kenny, F. Brandstätter, Th. Ntaflos & I. Dobryden

Nature Astronomy
Published: 21 March 2022


“Despite the intense cratering history of the Moon, very few traces of meteoritic material have been identified in the more than 380 kg of samples returned to Earth by the Apollo and Luna missions. Here we show that an ~200-µm-sized fragment collected by the Luna 16 mission has extra-lunar origins and probably originates from an LL chondrite with similar properties to near-Earth stony asteroids. The fragment has not experienced temperatures higher than 400 °C since its protolith formed early in the history of the Solar System. It arrived on the Moon, either as a micrometeorite or as the result of the break-up of a bigger impact, no earlier than 3.4 Gyr ago and possibly around 1 Gyr ago, an age that would be consistent with impact ages inferred from basaltic fragments in the Luna 16 sample and of a known dynamic upheaval in the Flora asteroid family, which is thought to be the source of L and LL chondrite meteorites. These results highlight the importance of extra-lunar fragments in constraining the impact history of the Earth–Moon system and suggest that material from LL chondrite asteroids may be an important component.”