A dunite fragment in meteorite Northwest Africa (NWA) 11421: A piece of the Moon’s mantle

Treiman, Allan H. and Semprich, Julia (2023). A dunite fragment in meteorite Northwest Africa (NWA) 11421: A piece of the Moon’s mantle. American Mineralogist, 108(12) pp. 2182–2192.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2022-8911


A centimeter-sized fragment of dunite, the first recognized fragment of Moon mantle material, has been discovered in the lunar highlands breccia meteorite Northwest Africa (NWA) 11421. The dunite consists of 95% olivine (Fo83), with low-Ca and high-Ca pyroxenes, plagioclase, and chrome spinel. Mineral compositions vary little across the clast and are consistent with chemical equilibration. Mineral thermobarometry implies that the dunite equilibrated at 980 ± 20 °C and 0.4 ± 0.1 gigapascal (GPa) pressure. The pressure at the base of the Moon’s crust (density 2550 kg/m3) is 0.14–0.18 GPa, so the dunite equilibrated well into the Moon’s upper mantle. Assuming a mantle density of 3400 kg/m3, the dunite equilibrated at a depth of 88 ± 22 km. Its temperature and depth of equilibration are consistent with the calculated present-day selenotherm (i.e., lunar geotherm). The dunite’s composition, calculated from mineral analyses and proportions, contains less Al, Ti, etc., than chondritic material, implying that it is of a differentiated mantle (including cumulates from a lunar magma ocean). The absence of phases containing P, Zr, etc., suggests minimal involvement of a KREEP component, and the low proportion of Ti suggests minimal interaction with late melt fractionates from a lunar magma ocean. The Mg/Fe ratio of the dunite (Fo83) is significantly lower than models of an overturned unmixed mantle would suggest, but is consistent with estimates of the bulk composition of the Moon’s mantle.

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