Microprobe Monazite Geochronology: Understanding Geologic Processes by Integrating Composition and Chronology
Monazite is a light rare earth element (LREE)-bearing phosphate mineral that is present in a wide variety of rock types, has an extremely variable composition reflecting host rock conditions, and is a robust geochronometer that can preserve crystallization ages through a long history of geological events. Monazite crystals typically contain distinct compositional domains that represent successive generations of monazite, which in turn, can provide a detailed record of the geologic history of its host rocks. The electron microprobe can be used to characterize the geometry of compositional domains, analyze the composition of each domain, and, when carefully configured, determine the U-Th-total Pb age for domains as small as 5 μm in width. These data allow the monazite to be linked with, and place timing constraints on, silicate processes in the host rocks. Current applications span a broad range of geologic processes in igneous, metamorphic, hydrothermal, and sedimentary rocks.