A komatiite component in Apollo 16 highland breccias: implications for the nickel-cobalt systematics and bulk composition of the moon
The lunar crust at the Apollo 16 landing site contains substantial amounts of a "primitive component" in which the ferromagnesian group of elements is concentrated. The composition of this component can be retrieved via an analysis of mixing relationships displayed by lunar breccias. It is found to be a komatiite which is compositionally similar to terrestrial komatiites both in major and minor elements. The komatiite component of the lunar crust is believed to have formed by extensive degrees of melting of the lunar interior at depths greater than were involved in the formation of the lunar magma ocean which was parental to the crust. After formation of the anorthositic crust, it was invaded by extensive flows and intrusions of komatiite magma from these deeper source regions. The komatiites became intimately mixed with the anorthosite by intensive meteoroid impacts about 4.5 b.y. ago, thereby accounting for the observed mixing relationships displayed by the crust. The compositional similarity between lunar and terrestrial komatiites strongly implies a corresponding similarity between the compositions of their source regions in the lunar interior and the Earth's upper mantle. The composition of the lunar interior can be modelled more specifically by combining the komatiite composition with its liquidus olivine composition (as determined experimentally) in proportions chosen so as to produce a cosmochemically acceptable range of Mg/Si ratios for the bulk Moon. Except for higher FeO and lower Na 2O, the range of compositions thereby obtained for the bulk moon is very similar to the composition of the Earth's upper mantle. The effects of meteoritic contamination on the abundances of cobalt and nickel in lunar highland breccias were subtracted on the assumption that the contaminating projectiles were chondritic. The cobalt and nickel residuals thereby obtained were found to correlate strongly with the (Mg + Fe) content of the breccias, demonstrating that the Co and Ni are associated with the ferromagnesian component of the breccias and are genuinely indigenous to the Moon. The lunar highland Co and Ni residuals also display striking Ni/Co versus Ni correlations which follow a similar trend to those displayed by terrestrial basalts, picrites and komatiites. The lunar trends provide further decisive evidence of the indigenous nature of the Co and Ni residuals and suggest the operation of extensive fractionation controlled by olivine-liquid equilibria in producing the primitive component of the lunar breccias. Indigenous nickel abundances at the Apollo 14, 15 and 17 sites are much lower than at the Apollo 16 site, although rocks from all sites follow the same Ni/Co versus Ni trends. It is suggested that the primitive component at the Apollo 14, 15 and 17 sites was generally of basaltic composition, in contrast to the komatiitic nature of the Apollo 16 primitive component.