Research ArticlePLANETARY SCIENCE

Widespread hematite at high latitudes of the Moon

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Science Advances  02 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 36, eaba1940
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1940

Abstract

Hematite (Fe2O3) is a common oxidization product on Earth, Mars, and some asteroids. Although oxidizing processes have been speculated to operate on the lunar surface and form ferric iron–bearing minerals, unambiguous detections of ferric minerals forming under highly reducing conditions on the Moon have remained elusive. Our analyses of the Moon Mineralogy Mapper data show that hematite, a ferric mineral, is present at high latitudes on the Moon, mostly associated with east- and equator-facing sides of topographic highs, and is more prevalent on the nearside than the farside. Oxygen delivered from Earth’s upper atmosphere could be the major oxidant that forms lunar hematite. Hematite at craters of different ages may have preserved the oxygen isotopes of Earth’s atmosphere in the past billions of years. Future oxygen isotope measurements can test our hypothesis and may help reveal the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere.

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