Lunar Mingled Breccia
(fragmental breccia with clasts of very low-Ti olivine basalt,
olivine gabbro cumulate, fragmental breccias, and regolith breccias)
Found September 2000
~26° 49' N., ~12° 49' W.
While visiting the Western Sahara, American meteorite collector M. Killgore purchased three meteorite fragments from local nomads. The three fragments, weighing 50 g, 224 g, and 359 g (totaling 633 g), were all recovered in close proximity, and it is apparent that they constitute a single meteorite. The find location was reported to be a desert plain near Dchira, Western Sahara. Subsequent finds considered likely to be launch- or fall-paired include Anoual [5.92 g], NWA 2700 [31.7 g], NWA 2727, NWA 2977, NWA 3160 [34 g], NWA 3170 [60 g, photo courtesy of S. Ralew], NWA 3333 [33 g], NWA 6950 [1,649 g], NWA 7007 [91 g, photo credit: Kuehner et al., 2012], NWA 8127 [529 g], NWA 10656 [262.5 g, diabase, photo credit: Valencia et al., 2017, #2483], NWA 10985 [250 g], NWA 11616 [2,550 g], NWA 11703 [5,309 g], and NWA 11767 [15 g]. The individual meteorites composing this lunar pairing group represent a wide variation in composition including both extrusive and intrusive lithologies associated with a single magmatic system (Valencia et al., 2019).
Among the currently known members of the NWA 773 clan, Valencia et al. (2017, 2019) now recognize four distinct lithologies along with an immature regolith breccia matrix which includes glass spherules, agglutinates, impact-melt clasts, and solar-wind gas vesicles. Three intrusive lithologies represent a crystallization sequence from more magnesian to more ferroan as follows: olivine gabbro (OG) → anorthositic gabbro (AG) → [gabbro →] ferroan gabbro (FG). The fourth recognized lithology is an extrusive olivine-phyric basalt (OPB). All of these paired stones exhibit a unique chemical signature in that they have the highest Sm/Eu ratios of any other basaltic lunar meteorite or basalt studied from the Apollo collection. For more information and photos of this lunar pairing group see KorotevWUSL.
The NWA 773 stone is primarily composed of two distinct lithologies: a light-green magnesian olivine gabbro cumulate, and a dark-colored, polymict impact breccia containing a regolith component that comprises gabbroic, basaltic, and volcanic elements. The diverse clasts composing the breccia lithology, considered likely derived from a common magma unit, were grouped into four categories by Fagan et al. (2014): 1) olivine gabbro cumulate (OC); 2) pyroxenegabbro clasts (PG); 3) symplectite (hedenbergite+fayalite+SiO2) clasts (S); 4) alkali-phase-ferroan clasts (AF). Category 1 of Fagan et al. (2014) is equivalent to the OG lithology of Valencia et al. (2019), while categories 24 together constitute the FG lithology of Valencia et al. (2019).
Boundary textures between the two lithologies in NWA 773 indicate that the cumulate lithology was a large clast incorporated in the breccia lithology (Fagan et al., 2003). Several independent analyses of a number of samples have determined a range of mineral compositions for the cumulate portion. It has a modal composition of 4866% olivine, 2640% clinopyroxene (comprising both low-Ca pigeonite and high-Ca augite), 815% interstitial plagioclase, 2% orthopyroxene, and ~1.5% K-feldspar, ilmenite, and RE-merrillite, along with trace amounts of Ba-rich K-feldspar (hyalophane), Cr-spinel, and troiliteFeNi-metal assemblages. Both the olivine gabbro cumulate and the breccia lithologies are reported to be enriched in incompatible trace elements. A breccia component enriched in incompatible trace elements has also been described in other paired stones such as NWA 3160 and NWA 3170.
The polymict breccia portion of NWA 773 has a fragmental texture that contains dispersed fragments of both magnesian and ferroan olivine gabbro, Ti-poor (VLT) olivine-phyric mare basalt, and Fe-rich lithic clasts comprising fayalite gabbros and fayalite granites, with both of the latter representing late-stage differentiates. Other evolved clasts present in the breccia include FeO-rich symplectites (fayalite+hedenbergite+silica) which can be formed by two different processes: 1) breakdown of pyroxferroite (a pyroxenoid formed by rapid cooling of a Mg-depleted melt), and 2) quenching of a silicate liquid. The second formation pathway of direct quenching of a melt is favored for NWA 773 due to the presence of feldspathic components in the silica (Fagan et al., 2003). Other unusual clast types have been identified, one of which contains fayalite, hyalophane, silica, and plagioclase, while another contains silica, K-feldspar, plagioclase, troilite, baddeleyite, and RE-merrillite. Mineral fragments present include fayalite, silica glass, agglutinate glass, and hedenbergitic pyroxene.
The variable mineral proportions observed in studied samples initially indicated that the cumulate portion was a norite or gabbronorite; however, the dominance of clinopyroxene over orthopyroxene in the plagioclaseorthopyroxeneclinopyroxene ternary diagram (Stöffler et al., 1980) suggests that this lithology is actually a gabbro. In a similar way, when the high proportion of olivine in this cumulate lithology is entered on the plagioclasepyroxeneolivine ternary diagram (Stöffler et al., 1980), it indicates that this is an olivine gabbro. The plagioclase content of 14.2 vol% differentiates this rock from a peridotite (requiring <10 vol% plagioclase).
The olivine and pyroxene clasts within the breccia component exhibit a wide range of Fe contents constituting a magmatic sequence progressing from the magnesian olivine gabbro cumulate to an extreme enrichment in Fe# in the ferroan symplectite and silica-bearing FeO-alkali clasts; these ferroan clasts have been compared by some researchers to terrestrial plutonic tholeiitic lithologies (Fagan, et al., 2002, 2013). The more ferroan olivine gabbro clasts contain no anorthosite (i.e., no highlands component) and have an LREE-enriched pattern with a strong Eu depletionan unusual composition for VLT basalts, but one which exhibits some similarities to Apollo 14 basalts.
Although the olivine gabbro lithology lacks solar noble gases, the breccia lithology exhibits an enhancement in the solar gas content indicating that only the breccia resided at the lunar surface for any significant time prior to ejection. The CRE ages of these two lithologies support this finding: 5.2 (±0.8) m.y. for the olivine gabbro and 68 m.y. for the breccia lithology. This age for the breccia is equivalent to a surface residence of 136 m.y. Lorenzetti et al. (2005) argue that after the breccia lithology was exposed near the surface, it was mixed with the cumulate lithology during an impact event and was subsequently buried at a depth of a few meters for the relatively short span of 100 (±20) m.y. The MoonEarth transit time is considered to have been <30 t.y., and according to Nishiizumi and Caffee (2010) such a short transit time corresponds to a launch event from a more shallow depth of <14.7 m. Shock features present in the NWA 773 clan, such as fractures in olivine and pyroxene and undulatory extinction in plagioclase, are consistent with low shock pressures of 5 GPa (Valencia et al., 2019). The presence of some minor calcite filling fractures indicates only minor terrestrial alteration consistent with a weathering grade of W1.
A detailed petrogenetic model for mare basalts was presented by J. Day and L. Taylor (2007), a synopsis for which can be found on the NWA 032 page. This model, which demonstrates that NWA 032/479 could be launch paired with the Antarctic LaPaz (LAP) pairing group, was then expounded upon to explore the possibilities that the NWA 773 pairing group might also be derived from the same differentiated stratigraphic magma unit as the NWA and LAP samples (Hallis et al., 2007). Based on chemical compositions, mineralogies, textures, cooling rates, and crystallization and CRE ages, it was argued that the lunar pairing group of NWA 773 may represent the more rapidly cooled cumulate-rich base of this magma unit, whereas the olivine basalt component, well represented in NWA 3160, derives from the lowermost layer adjacent to local pre-existing rock. The uniformly slow-cooled LAP samples are proposed to have crystallized in the middle of the flow, while the more rapidly cooled NWA 032 is consistent with crystallization at the upper margin. The NWA 6950 pairing member has a crystallization age that is ~100 m.y. older than NWA 773, inferring a possible faster-cooling position in the cumulate pile for this rock (Shaulis et al., 2012). In-depth studies of the NWA 032/NWA 4734/LAP pairing group mare basalts conducted by Elardo et al. (2014) led them to conclude that these meteorites were formed in a non-KREEPy source reservoir as opposed to the KREEPy source of the NWA 773 pairing group, ruling out any close relationship between them. However, it remains a possibility that the KREEP-rich component present in members of the NWA 773 clan is a late addition incorporating ejecta from a more distant impact.
The KAr chronometer associated with NWA 773 and other pairings provides an age of 2.75 (±0.3) b.y. (2.865 ±0.031 b.y. calculated from SmNd isochron), possibly indicating a later crystallization age (Burgess et al., 2007). The weighted average PbPb age derived from baddeleyite grains from NWA 773 and other pairings, which reflects primary crystallization of the various pairings of this clan, was determined to be 3.1156 (±0.0068) b.y. (Shaulis et al., 2012, 2013, 2017). The matching PbPb ages for both magnesian and ferroan olivine gabbro cumulate components indicate they formed during the same time period, while the comparative ages of the olivine gabbro lithologies and the polymict breccia attest to the fact that the constituents of the latter were derived from the former. Furthermore, the chronological dataset on the whole is consistent with all members of the NWA 773 clan, as well as each of the component lithologies, being magmatically related (Shaulis et al., 2013, 2017). The formation interval of ~3.32.9 b.y. ago determined for the NWA 773 clan lunaites is the most recent known lunar igneous event with few exceptions; e.g., Rankenburg et al. (2007) dated the low-Ti mare basalt LAP 02205 at 2.991 (±0.014) b.y., and based on crater sizefrequency distribution analysis, Hiesinger et al. (2003) concluded that volcanism adjacent to the Marius Hills in central Oceanus Procellarum may have been extant as recent as ~1.2 b.y. ago.
A possible scenario for the formation of the olivine gabbro begins with the formation of a lunar magma ocean (LMO) to a depth of 400500 km, and possibly as deep as 1,000 km (Ranen and Jacobsen, 2004). As cooling proceeded, differences in density began to show their effect. After 75% crystallization of the magma ocean, buoyant plagioclase-rich rock began to crystallize and float to the surface to form the original anorthite-rich plagioclase crust constituting the uppermost ~530 km of the magma ocean. At the same time, an increasingly more dense (i.e., a gradual decreasing ratio of Mg to Fe) and mafic, compositionally-zoned lower crust was accumulated at depths of ~2555 km. Thereafter, an unstable configuration resulted as rock of a higher density lay above rock of a lower density, which resulted in convective overturn. This event in turn initiated the pressure-release remelting of early magma ocean olivine- and orthopyroxene-rich cumulates.
An anomalous KREEP-rich region of limited extent (16% of the surface), known as the Procellarum KREEP Terrane (PKT), was formed during the final phase of LMO solidification through extreme (>99.5%) fractional crystallization which occurred 4.492 (±0.061) b.y. ago. (Korotev 2005). This region is also thought to be the source of an ultramafic upper mantle melt that was the parent magma of the Mg-suite rocks. Through studies of SmNd data from lunar samples, it was determined that solidification of the LMO was complete in 60200 m.y. after its onset, at least by 4.417 (±0.006) b.y. ago (Boyet and Carlson, 2007; Grange et al., 2009). Based on PbPb dating of zircon crystals, this LMO crystallization interval has been refined to 100 m.y. (Nemchin et al., 2009). Nemchin et al. (2009) determined that the formation of an anorthosite crust could not begin until 8085% of the magma ocean had crystallized, which would allow relatively rapid cooling over a time interval of ~50 m.y. The final 25% of crystallization would have taken place under an insulating anorthosite crust over a similar time interval of ~50 m.y. Based on zircon crystallization studies, Grange et al. (2009) determined that all magmatic activity in at least some locations (e.g., Serenitatis) had completely ended by 4.2 b.y. ago. According to Crow et al. (2011), the PbPb ages of Apollo zircons show a peak at ~4.33 b.y. A somewhat younger PbPb age of 3.953 (±0.018) b.y. was found for a large zircon grain located in the breccia lithology of NWA 773; this attests to the incorporation of some older material located in close proximity to the brecciation event (Shaulis et al., 2017).
It is possible that the parent magma assimilated material containing a high-K KREEP composition and a high LREE/HREE ratio, or alternatively, material with a high RE-merrillite composition. This assimilation produced the high incompatible element abundances present in the later-formed rocks. In contrast to this assimilation scenario, it was suggested by Shearer et al. (2005) that the observed compositional diversity of KREEP-rich magmas is more consistent with the addition of the KREEP component to the basaltic magma during the melting phase, prior to olivine crystallization. In support of the source mixing model, Borg et al. (2005) concluded that the 87Rb86Sr ratio of NWA 773 would require 22% KREEP assimilation by the parental magma compared to only a 2% KREEP addition to the source magma. The low Fe content and high Mg# determined for NWA 773 are more consistent with a lower proportion of KREEP as predicted by the source mixing model. Nevertheless, it is now being considered by some that the KREEP component was incorporated into those specific lunar samples through a late impact into the Procellarum KREEP Terrane.
The parent magma underwent differentiation by fractional crystallization, and a Ti-containing cumulus ilmenite was gravitationally extracted. The magma eventually formed plutons of Mg-suite material (petrogenetically distinct from the Mg-suite material from the PKT region), which then intruded the lower crust in some regions of the Feldspathic Highlands Terrane. This Fe-enriched magma may have been part of a shallow layered intrusive, or possibly a thick differentiated lava flow. Crystallization occurred as the melt cooled from ~1200°C to 1050°C. The upper mantle, composed of ultramafic, olivine-rich dunite or harzburgite, may have contributed melt material to the crystallization process of the Mg-suite rocks. The crystallization sequence from the base of the crust upwards was inferred as follows: dunite (>90 vol% olivine) → troctolite (magnesian olivine + 1060 vol% plagioclase) → norite (low-Ca orthopyroxene + 1060 vol% plagioclase) → gabbro (high-Ca clinopyroxene + 1060 vol% plagioclase) → anorthosite (>90 vol% plagioclase). This lunar crystallization sequence is unlike that of any terrestrial oceanic or continental basalt; in the terrestrial case, gabbroic high-Ca pyroxene crystallizes before noritic low-Ca pyroxene.
The International Union of Geological SciencesSubcommission on the Systematics of Igneous Rocks, having established a Working Party on the classification of lunar rocks, has adopted a Classification System for Lunar Rocks.
Northwest Africa 773 is probably derived from an upper mantle or lower-crustal parent melt that was mixed with a KREEP-rich melt component, possibly within a deep pluton. This mixture later intruded into upper crustal rock where crystallization under relatively rapid cooling conditions occurred within a shallow dike or sill (a hypabyssal rocktype), or possibly within a thick lava pool. Elemental distributions within the cumulate lithology provide evidence of cooling rates consistent with this scenario. Ultimately, differentiation of the melt produced the various components that are incorporated into the NWA 773 breccia lithology.
Jolliff et al. (2003) found that close compositional similarities exist between NWA 773 and Apollo 14 Green Glass, type b1, and they suggest that NWA 773 may have originated from a parent melt in proximity to the source region of these picritic green volcanic glasseslocated within the Procellarum KREEP Terrane (PKT). It was proposed that the high KREEP concentration was incorporated as the melt transited from a mantle depth of a few hundred km to the near-surface. Further research on the NWA 773 clan by Valencia et al. (2019) resulted in an expanded, albeit contextually simplified, petrogenetic model (see a schematic illustration below). As the melt cooled in a shallow magma chamber, crystallization and settling of olivine occurred through the 40% crystallization stage (OG lithology). Thereafter, Ca-rich pyroxene began co-crystallizing with olivine, and this was followed by a more buoyant plagioclase phase (AG lithology) resulting in a density-layered gabbroic intrusive. Lastly, a ferroan residual melt component (FG lithology) of 1525 vol% became trapped within the intrusive. Various extrusive basaltic lithologies (OPB lithology and others) were mixed at this stage to produce a polymict regolith breccia. The high concentration of the heat-producing elements Th, U, and K present in the PKT region could have permitted an extended period of melting and mixing consistent with the young age of NWA 773; however, VLT material has not been identified in significant amounts in this region.
Schematic Illustration of the Petrogenesis of NWA 773 Clan Lithologies
Diagram credit: Valencia et al., MAPS, vol. 54, #9, p. 2106 (2019)
'Petrography, relationships, and petrogenesis of the gabbroic lithologies in Northwest
Africa 773 clan members Northwest Africa 773, 2727, 3160, 3170, 7007, and 10656'
In the PSRD article "Damp Moon Rising" by G. Jeffrey Taylor (July 2010), it was described how studies at the Carnegie Institute of Washington (McCubbin et al., 2010) and Okayama University in Japan (Yamashita et al., 2010) employed a technique called 'hydrogen manometry' to construct an OH calibration curve from apatite standards. This curve was then employed to determine the amount of water present in specific lunar meteorites such as NWA 773. Fluorapatite in NWA 773 and pairings contains 0.4 to 0.7 wt% (4,0007,000 ppm) water, significantly more than previously supposed. This converts to a minimum of 0.7 to 1.7 wt% (7,00017,000 ppm) water in the KREEP-bearing, late-stage magma from which NWA 773 and pairings were derived. In their study of apatite grains in NWA 773, Tartèse et al. (2014) found significantly higher water contents, and determined that the apatites could be resolved into two distinct groups: one characterized by moderate amounts of H2O in the range of 7002,500 ppm, and another having high to extremely-high amounts of H2O in the range of 5,40016,700 ppm. The extraordinarily high water content in some apatite grains of the brecciated lithology of NWA 773 has been conjectured to be related to silicate liquid immiscibility, possibly as a result of depletion of F and Cl in the Si-rich melt fraction.
For their calculations, Yamashita et al. (2010) presumed that apatite would have formed from such an evolved magma only after 9095% crystallization, so they argue that the original basaltic magma would have proportionally contained 360850 ppm water. Moreover, given the reasonable scenario in which 10% partial melting of the lunar interior occurred, the unmelted interior source region which hosted NWA 773 and pairings would have contained 717 ppm water. Although no longer thought to be dry, the Moon certainly contains much less water than the 5001,000 ppm incorporated in the Earth.
Through remote sensing technology aboard the Clementine spacecraft, utilizing multispectral reflectance imaging, measurements of the mafic minerals olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase feldspar, and indirectly, anorthosite, have been performed across nearly the entire lunar surface. Notwithstanding the proposal by Jolliff et al. suggesting that the PKT region is a possible source location for NWA 773, a different gabbro-containing site located on the far side of the Moon, in the South PoleAitken (SPA) basin, has been identified by Clementine. This 2,500 km-diameter impact structure has had its upper crust completely removed, and a homogeneous melt sheet was formed. This large basin is thought to preserve ancient crustal rock that is mostly uncontaminated by subsequent basin ejecta transported over the Moon's surface (Petro and Pieters (2008). Subsequent impact events onto the SPA basin, such as those which formed the 64-km-diameter Bhabha crater and the 505-km-diameter Apollo basin, have excavated lower-crustal material from depths greater than 20 km. Although SPA is predominantly noritic in composition, a small rise known as Olivine Hill is interpreted to be an olivine gabbro lithology. Volcanic activity associated with small mare ponds that occurred after basin formation is consistent with the presence of the VLT basaltic component identified in the NWA 773 breccia.
Calzada-Diaz et al. (2015) compared compositional and age data from a large number of lunar meteorites with elemental remote sensing data obtained by the Lunar Prospector gamma ray spectrometer, primarily for Fe, Ti, and Th, to better constrain the meteorite's source regions. For the basaltic breccia NWA 773, plausible ejection sites were identified in Mare Serenitatis, Mare Crisium, and the western boundary regions of Oceanus Procellarum, while Mare Fecunditatis was found to be inconsistent with the age data (see image below).
Image credit: Calzada-Diaz et al., MAPS, vol. 50, #2, p. 219 (2015)
'Constraining the source regions of lunar meteorites using orbital geochemical data'
The lunar meteorites Y-793274, QUE 94281, and EET 87521/96008 share many compositional characteristics with NWA 773 and may have experienced a similar petrogenesis. With the recovery of NWA 773, representing lower-crustal olivine gabbro, our ability to understand the Moon's early history has been greatly enhanced. The top photo above shows samples of both the cumulate lithology (OG) and the regolith breccia which together constitute the NWA 773 meteorite. The specimen on the left is a 0.094 g cut fragment of the dark-colored polymict breccia component, pervaded by fragments of the cumulate lithology and other diverse mineral and lithic clasts. The specimen on the right is a 0.085 g cut fragment of the olivine gabbro cumulate component consisting of green to tan olivine crystals within pyroxene, interspersed with black chromite grains, and transected by a small shock-melt vein. An enlarged photo of the olivine gabbro cumulate is shown as well.