Lunar Meteorite: Queen Alexandra Range 94281

QUE 94281 has an unusual shape and appears to be a small piece of a larger meteorite because fusion crust covers only part of the stone. The fusion crust is visible on the top surface (T). Like QUE 93069, the fusion crust is vesicular – it contains bubbles because the rock is a regolith breccia. Only lunar meteorites that are regolith breccias have thick, highly vesicular fusion crusts. The bubbles form as the meteor passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and solar-wind-implanted gases are released when the exterior melts. The small cube in the corner is 1 cm on each side. Photo credit: NASA/JSC
Lab sample of QUE 94281. The white clasts are anorthosite. Photo credit: Randy Korotev

A photo of some rocks sent to me by someone saying something like, “I have rocks that looks just like QUE 94281!” The rocks in this photo are vesicular basalts sold at garden shops as landscaping stones or to be used in gas barbecue grills.

The basalt rocks above do superficially resemble QUE 94281, but not in detail. QUE 94281 is a fragment broken from a larger stone, so it has some rough edges, like the vesicular basalts above. The fusion crust on QUE 94281 coats only part of the stone. The vesicular basalts contain vesicles (frozen gas bubbles) throughout the interior. In contrast, the interior of QUE 94281 does not contain interior vesicles because the interior was never molten (see thin section images below). Like many lunar meteorites, QUE 94281 is a regolith breccia – lunar soil that was shock compacted into a hard rock by the impact of a meteoroid on the Moon. Before it was shock compacted, the fine-grained material had soaked up a lot of solar wind at the surface of the Moon. The solar wind is mostly hydrogen and helium, both gases. Ions of these gases were implanted into the fine-grained lunar soil. The fusion crust of QUE 94281 and several other lunar meteorites (ALHA 81005, QUE 03069, Calcalong Creek) is vesicular because the solar-wind-implanted gases escape when the exterior melts as the meteoroid passes through Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. So, a lunar regolith breccia is vesicular on the outside but not on the inside – just the opposite of the terrestrial basalts. (In the chill skin of the vesicular basalt on the upper right, some just-broken gas bubbles were frozen, leaving depressions and a few holes.) Finally, QUE 94281 is a breccia – a rock made up of bits and pieces of other rocks. Most of the rock fragments making up QUE 94281 are, in fact, pieces of basalt. QUE 94281 also contains fragments of rocks from the lunar highlands, however (the white bits in the “lab sample” photo below). These clasts (anorthosites) are light-colored.

If you have a rock that “looks like” the vesicular rocks in the photo above, it is just a piece of terrestrial basalt or a piece of slag from some industrial process.

Figure 1 of Jolliff et al. (1998). Notice that the fusion crust (right edge) is vesicular but the interior of the meteorite is not. Above: A backscattered-electron image of a polished chip of QUE 94281. Places having the highest mean atomic number (usually iron-rich minerals) appear brightest; those having low the lowest mean atomic number (usually plagioclase and aluminum-rich glass) appear darkest. Below: Line drawing of major lithologies: LC = lithic clast (small rock fragment), gls = glass clast, Fa = fayalite, Hd = hedenbergite, Cr = crystobalite (a silica mineral), M = metal, v = void. The rectangles mark the location of other figures from Jolliff et al. (1998). Image credit: Brad Jolliff

Listed in The Meteoritical Bulletin, No. 79

from Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter, vol. 18, No. 2, 1995

Queen Alexandra Range 94281 (QUE 94281)

Queen Alexandra Range, Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica
Dimensions (cm): 4.0 x 3.1 x 1.0
Found: 1994 December 10
Mass: 23.4 g (1 piece)

Lunar-Basaltic Breccia

Macroscopic Description: Roberta Score and Marilyn Lindstrom. This is a very strange meteorite. It is highly glassy and inhomogeneous. The exterior is black with thick, shiny glass on one side and an irregular, rough surface on the other. The glass is black, conchoidal, vesicular in places, and has melted into many of the abundant cavities. The interior is very inhomogeneous. This meteorite is wedge-shaped, ranging in thickness from 3 mm to 10 mm. At the thin end, the rough black material has small white flecks in it, while the middle region consists of a chaotic aphanitic material. The thick end is a coarse-grained breccia with abundant angular white, yellow, and black mineral and lithic clasts up to 3 mm across. Two 2 mm-thick glassy, vesicular, black veins cut across the different areas. Oxidation is lightly scattered throughout the meteorite. It will be difficult to do detailed sampling of this complex breccia.

Thin Section (,4) Description: Brian Mason. The section shows a microbreccia of pale brown pyroxene and colorless plagioclase clasts, up to 1.2 mm across, in a comminuted groundmass of these minerals. Colorless fusion crust rims part of the section, which is cut by a 1 mm-wide veinlet of vesicular black glass. Pyroxene compositions show a wide range: Wo4-30, Fs23-55, En25-66. Plagioclase composition is An91-97. A little olivine, Fa33-36, was analyzed, and one grain of silica polymorph, probably tridymite. Fusion crust composition is SiO2 47, Al2O3 16, FeO 13, MgO 9.1, CaO 12, K2O <0.1, TiO2 0.6, MnO 0.2, Na2O 0.5. The black glass has a similar but somewhat variable composition. The high FeO:MnO ratio indicates a lunar origin, and the meteorite has a composition of a basalt-rich breccia. Its composition appears to be intermediate between those of EET87521 (Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, v. 53, p. 3323, 1989) and Calcalong Creek (Nature, v. 352, p.614, 1991) and very similar to that of Y793274 (Proc. NIPR Symp. Antarct. Meteorites, v. 4, p. 3, 1991).

Randy Says…

QUE 94281 is the first brecciated lunar meteorite for which there was petrographic and compositional evidence that it was launched from the same crater as a previously known lunar meteorite, Yamato 793274 (Arai and Warren, 1999). These two meteorites are likely also launch paired with  DEW 12007NWA 4884, the NWA 7611 clan, and possibly EET 87521/96008. See NWA 7611-clan for more details.

More Information

Meteoritical Bulletin Database

QUE 94281


ANSMET Location Map


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Dreibus G., Spettel B., Wlotzka F., Jochum K. P., Schultz L., Weber H. W., and Wänke H. (1996) Chemistry, petrology, and noble gases of basaltic lunar meteorite QUE 94281Meteoritics & Planetary Science 31, A38-A39.

Fritz J. (2012) Impact ejection of lunar meteorites and the age of Giordano BrunoIcarus 221, 1183-1186.

Jolliff B. L., Rockow K. M., and Korotev R. L. (1998) Geochemistry and petrology of lunar meteorite Queen Alexandra Range 94281, a mixed mare and highland regolith breccia, with special emphasis on very-low-Ti mafic components. Meteoritics & Planetary Science 33, 581-601.

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Korotev R. L., Irving A. J., and Bunch T. E. (2008) Keeping up with the lunar meteorites – 2008Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIX, abstract no. 1209.

Korotev R. L, Zeigler R. A., Jolliff B. L., Irving A. J., and Bunch T. E. (2009) Compositional and lithological diversity among brecciated lunar meteorites of intermediate iron compositionMeteoritics & Planetary Science 44, 1287-1322.

Kring D. A., Hill D. H., and Boynton W. V. (1996) A glass-rich view of QUE94281, a new meteoritic sample from a mare region of the MoonLunar and Planetary Science XXVII, 707-708.

Mikouchi T. (1999) Mineralogy and petrology of a new lunar meteorite EET96008: Lunar basaltic breccia similar to Y-793274, QUE94281 and EET87521Lunar and Planetary Science XXX, abstract no. 1558.

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Nishiizumi K. and Caffee M. W. (1996) Exposure histories of lunar meteorites Queen Alexandra Range 94281 and 94269Lunar and Planetary Science XXVII, 959-960.

Polnau E. and Eugster O. (1998) Cosmic-ray produced, radiogenic, and solar noble gases in lunar meteorites Queen Alexandra Range 94269 and 94281Meteoritics & Planetary Science 33, 313-319.

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