Measuring Noble Gases for Thermochronology

The articles in this issue show how applications of noble gas thermochronology can help answer fundamental questions about Earth and planetary processes. Here, we discuss how noble gas measurements are actually made. We review the different methods used to extract and isolate noble gases from natural materials and to measure those gas concentrations and isotopic compositions using mass spectrometry.

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Noble Gas Thermochronology of Extraterrestrial Materials

Rocks from extraterrestrial bodies in the Solar System are influenced by thermal processes occurring within planetary interiors and on their surfaces. These range from the extremely hot and brief, in the case of impact events, to the comparatively cool and protracted, in the case of solar irradiation of rocks residing in regoliths for millions to billions of years. Noble gas thermochronology applied to meteorites and extraterrestrial materials returned by space missions enables us to decipher the histories of these materials and thereby understand fundamental aspects of the evolution of terrestrial planetary bodies, including the Moon, Mars, and asteroids.

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