40Ar/39Ar and cosmic ray exposure ages of plagioclase-rich lithic fragments from Apollo 17 regolith, 78461 7. Planetary science

J. P. Das, Suzanne L Baldwin, J. W. Delano

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3 Scopus citations


Argon isotopic data is used to assess the potential of low-mass samples collected by sample return missions on planetary objects (e.g., Moon, Mars, asteroids), to reveal planetary surface processes. We report the first 40Ar/39Ar ages and 38Ar cosmic ray exposure (CRE) ages, determined for eleven submillimeter-sized (ranging from 0.06 to 1.2 mg) plagioclase-rich lithic fragments from Apollo 17 regolith sample 78461 collected at the base of the Sculptured Hills. Total fusion analysis was used to outgas argon from the lithic fragments. Three different approaches were used to determine 40Ar/39Ar ages and illustrate the sensitivity of age determination to the choice of trapped (40Ar/36Ar)t. 40Ar/39Ar ages range from ∼4.0 to 4.4 Ga with one exception (Plag#10). Surface CRE ages, based on 38Ar, range from ∼1 to 24 Ma. The relatively young CRE ages suggest recent re-working of the upper few centimeters of the regolith. The CRE ages may result from the effect of downslope movement of materials to the base of the Sculptured Hills from higher elevations. The apparent 40Ar/39Ar age for Plag#10 is >5 Ga and yielded the oldest CRE age (i.e., ∼24 Ma). We interpret this data to indicate the presence of parentless 40Ar in Plag#10, originating in the lunar atmosphere and implanted in lunar regolith by solar wind. Based on a chemical mixing model, plagioclase compositions, and 40Ar/39Ar ages, we conclude that lithic fragments originated from Mg-suite of highland rocks, and none were derived from the mare region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalEarth, Planets and Space
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Ar cosmic ray exposure ages
  • Ar/Ar ages
  • Apollo 17
  • Lunar regolith
  • Parentless Ar
  • Planetary surfaces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Space and Planetary Science

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