The isotopic composition of volatiles in the unique Bench Crater carbonaceous chondrite impactor found in the Apollo 12 regolith

Katherine Joy, Romain Tartese, S Messenger, M E Zolensky, Y Marrocchi, D R Frank, D A Kring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Projectiles striking the Moon have modified its crust and delivered volatile elements to its interior and surface. Direct evidence of impactor origins is recorded by the rare occurrence of sub-cm sized meteorite fragments identified in Apollo samples and lunar meteorites. The Bench Crater meteorite is a millimetre-sized carbonaceous chondrite collected in regolith on the rim of Bench impact crater at the Apollo 12 landing site. Transmission electron microscopy has previously shown that Bench Crater contains abundant hydrated silicates, establishing the survivability of hydrated material impacting the lunar surface. To provide further information on the volatile inventory of the Bench Crater meteorite, we report here the isotope compositions of hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and oxygen. This is the first direct isotopic analysis of meteoritic material delivered to the lunar surface and provides context for volatile and organic element signatures in lunar regolith samples, and the survivability of volatile material delivered to planetary surfaces during impact bombardment. The Bench Crater meteorite is characterised by δD values ranging between -36 ± 40 and 200 ± 40 ‰, and bulk average δ13C of -13 ± 30 ‰, and δ15N of -40 ± 36 ‰ (all uncertainties at the 2σ confidence level). The oxygen isotope compositions measured in situ in matrix silicates and magnetite in Bench Crater are consistent with those measured in matrix and magnetite in CI and CM chondrite falls. Altogether, these new H, C, N and O isotope data, coupled to mineralogical and geochemical observations, suggest that Bench Crater may have been derived from an asteroidal parent body not represented in the terrestrial meteorite collection. This is a crucial outcome in the current context of sample-return missions to carbonaceous asteroids, and more broadly for investigating the flux of material delivered to the Earth-Moon system through time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Apr 2020


  • moon
  • meteorite
  • light stable isotope
  • regolith
  • volatiles
  • carbonaceous chondrite


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