The University of Arizona

39Ar-40Ar ages of eucrites and thermal history of asteroid 4 Vesta

D. D. Bogard, D. H. Garrison


Eucrite meteorites are igneous rocks that derived from a large asteroid, probably 4 Vesta. Past studies have shown that after most eucrites formed, they underwent metamorphism in temperatures up to ≥800°C. Much later, many were brecciated and heated by large impacts into the parent body surface. The less common basaltic, unbrecciated eucrites also formed near the surface but, presumably, escaped later brecciation, while the cumulate eucrites formed at depths where metamorphism may havepersisted for a considerable period. To further understand the complex HED parent body thermal history, we determined new 39Ar- 40Ar ages for 9 eucrites classified as basaltic but unbrecciated, 6 eucrites classified as cumulate, and several basaltic-brecciated eucrites. Precise Ar-Ar ages of 2 cumulate eucrites (Moama and EET 87520) and 4 unbrecciated eucrites give a tight cluster at 4.48 ±  0.02 Gyr (not including any uncertainties in the flux monitor age). Ar-Ar ages of 6 additional unbrecciated eucrites are consistent with this age within theirrelatively larger age uncertainties. By contrast, available literature data on Pb-Pb isochron ages of 4 cumulate eucrites and 1 unbrecciated eucrite vary over 4.4-4.515 Gyr, and 147Sm-143Nd isochron ages of 4 cumulate and 3 unbrecciated eucrites vary over 4.41-4.55 Gyr. Similar Ar-Ar ages for cumulate and unbrecciated eucrites imply that cumulate eucrites do not have a younger formation age than basaltic eucrites, as was previously proposed. We suggest that these cumulate and unbrecciated eucrites resided at a depth where parent body temperatures were sufficiently high to cause the K-Ar and some other chronometers to remain as open diffusion systems. From the strong clustering of Ar-Ar ages at ~4.48 Gyr, we propose that these meteorites were excavated from depth in a single large impact event ~4.48 Gyr ago, which quickly cooled the samples and started the K-Ar chronometer. A large (~460 km) crater postulated to exist on Vesta may be the source of these eucrites and of many smaller asteroids thought to be spectrally or physically associated with Vesta. Some Pb-Pb and Sm-Nd ages of cumulate and unbrecciated eucrites are consistent with the Ar-Ar age of 4.48 Gyr, and the few older Pb-Pb and Sm-Nd ages may reflect an isotopic closure before the large cratering event. One cumulate eucrite gives an Ar-Ar age of 4.25 Gyr; 3 additional cumulate eucrites give Ar-Ar ages of 3.4-3.7 Gyr; and 2 unbrecciated eucrites give Ar-Ar ages of ~3.55 Gyr. We attribute these younger ages to a later impact heating. Furthermore, the Ar-Ar impact-reset ages of several brecciated eucrites and eucritic clasts in howardites fall within the range of 3.5-4.1 Gyr. Among these, Piplia Kalan, the first eucrite to show evidence for extinct 26Al, was strongly impact heated ~3.5 Gyr ago. When these data are combined with eucrite Ar-Ar ages in the literature, they confirm that several large impact heating events occurred on Vesta between ~4.1-3.4 Gyr ago. The onset of major impact heating may have occurred at similar times for both Vesta and the moon, but impact heating appears to have persisted for a somewhat later time on Vesta.


I-Xe ages;IAB meteorites;Caddo County meteorites;Ar-Ar ages

Full Text: