A team led by Arizona State University researchers studied the timeline of meteorite impacts on the moon through a ground-breaking application of laser microprobe technology to Apollo 17 samples.
Developing an absolute chronology of lunar impact events is important because the moon is a vital proxy for understanding the early history of Earth.
The researchers believe that this information will provide scientists with better understanding of the conditions under which the Earth formed.
The samples analyzed by the ASU team are known as lunar impact melt breccias – mash-ups of glass, rock and crystal fragments that were created by impact events on the moon’s surface.
Conventional wisdom holds that the largest impact basins on the moon created the vast majority of impact melts, and therefore nearly all of the samples dated must be linked to the formation of those basins.
While it is true that great amount of impact melt is produced by basin-scale impact events, recent images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera confirm that even small craters with diameters on the order of 100 meters can generate impact melts.