The University of Arizona

Impact processing of chondritic planetesimals: Siderophile and volatile element fractionation in the Chico L chondrite

Marc D. Norman, David W. Mittlefehldt


A large impact event 500 million years ago shocked and melted portions of the L chondrite parent body. Chico is an impact melt breccia produced by this event. Sawn surfaces of this 105 kg meteorite reveal a dike of fine-grained, clast-poor impact melt cutting shocked host chondrite. Coarse (1-2 cm diameter) globules of FeNi metal+sulfide are concentrated along the axis of the dike from metal-poor regions toward the margins. Refractory lithophile element abundance patterns in the melt rock are parallel to average L chondrites, demonstrating near-total fusion of the L chondrite target by the impact and negligible crystal-liquid fractionation during emplacement and cooling of the dike. Significant geochemical effects of the impact melting event include fractionation of siderophile and chalcophile elements with increasing metal-silicate heterogeneity, and mobilization of moderately to highly volatile elements. Siderophile and chalcophile elements ratios such as Ni/Co, Cu/Ga, and Ir/Au vary systematically with decreasing metal content of the melt. Surprisingly small (~10^2) effective metal/silicate-melt distribution coefficients for highly siderophile elements probably reflect inefficient segregation of metal despite the large degrees of melting. Moderately volatile lithophile elements such K and Rb were mobilized and heterogeneously distributed in the L chondrite impact breccias whereas highly volatile elements such as Cs and Pb were profoundly depleted in the region of the parent body sampled by Chico. Volatile element variations in Chico and other L chondrites are more consistent with a mechanism related to impact heating rather than condensation from a solar nebula. Impact processing can significantly alter the primary distributions of siderophile and volatile elements in chondritic planetesimals.


anorthosite clast;isotopic compositions;petrology;trace elements;geochemistry

Full Text: