Petrology, geochemistry, and age of low-Ti mare-basalt meteorite Northeast Africa 003-A: A possible member of the Apollo 15 mare basaltic suite
Northeast Africa 003 (NEA 003) is a lunar meteorite found as a two paired stones (6 and 118 g) in Libya, 2000 and 2001. The main portion (∼75 vol%) of the 118 g meteorite, used for this study, (NEA 003-A) consists of mare-basalt and a smaller adjacent portion (∼25 vol%) is a basaltic breccia (NEA 003-B). NEA 003-A has a coarse-grained magmatic texture consisting mainly of olivine, pyroxene and plagioclase. The late-stage mineral association is composed mainly of elongated plagioclase, ilmenite, troilite, fayalite, Si-K-rich glass, apatite, and a rare SiO 2 phase. Other accessory minerals include ulvöspinel, chromite, and trace Fe-Ni metal. Olivine and pyroxene contain shock-induced fractures, and plagioclase is completely converted into maskelynite. The Fe/Mn values of the whole rock, olivines and pyroxenes, and the bulk-rock oxygen isotopic composition provide evidence for the lunar origin of NEA 003-A meteorite. This is further supported by the presence of Fe-Ni metal and the anhydrous mineral association. NEA 003-A is geochemically and petrographically distinct from previously described mare-basalt meteorites and is not paired with any of them. The petrography and major element composition of NEA 003-A is similar to the composition of low-Ti olivine mare basalts from Apollo 12 and olivine-normative basalts from Apollo 15. The NEA 003-A meteorite shows obvious geochemical similarities in trace elements contents with Apollo 15 olivine-normative basalts and could represent a yet unknown geochemically primitive member of the olivine-normative basalt series. The meteorite is depleted in rare earth elements (REE) and incompatible trace elements indicating a primitive character of the parental magma. The bulk-rock chemical composition demonstrates that the parent melt of NEA 003-A was not contaminated with KREEP components as a result of magma mixing or assimilation processes. Results of crystallization modelling and low minimum cooling rate estimates (∼0.07 °C/h) suggest that the parent melt of NEA 003-A crystallized in the lower part of a lava flow containing cumulate olivine (∼10%) and was probably derived from more primitive picritic magma by fractional crystallization processes. Sm-Nd dating yields an age of 3.09 ± 0.06 Ga which corresponds to the period of lower Eratosthenian lunar volcanic activity, and the near-chondritic ∊Nd value of -0.4 ± 0.3 indicates that the meteorite could be derived from a slightly enriched mantle source similar to the Apollo 15 green glasses. Ar-Ar step release results are inconsistent with Sm-Nd ages suggesting that NEA 003-A was exposed to one or more impact events. The most extensive event took place at 1.8 Ga and the shock intensity was likely between 28 and 45 GPa. The absence of solar Ar suggests that NEA 003-A has not been directly exposed at the lunar surface but the cosmic ray exposure age of 209 ± 6 Ma suggests that NEA 003-A resided in the upper regolith for part of its history.