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Martian regolith in Elephant Moraine 79001 shock melts? evidence from major element composition and sulfur speciation

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Elephant Moraine, achondrites, Antarctica, chemical composition

Abstract (summary)

Shock veins and melt pockets in Lithology A of Martian meteorite Elephant Moraine (EETA) 79001 have been investigated using electron microprobe (EM) analysis, petrography and X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (XANES) spectroscopy to determine elemental abundances and sulfur speciation (S (super 2-) versus S (super 6+) ). The results constrain the materials that melted to form the shock glasses and identify the source of their high sulfur abundances. The XANES spectra for EETA79001 glasses show a sharp peak at 2.471 keV characteristic of crystalline sulfides and a broad peak centered at 2.477 keV similar to that obtained for sulfide-saturated glass standards analyzed in this study. Sulfate peaks at 2.482 keV were not observed. Bulk compositions of EETA79001 shock melts were estimated by averaging defocused EM analyses. Vein and melt pocket glasses are enriched in Al, Ca, Na and S, and depleted in Fe, Mg and Cr compared to the whole rock. Petrographic observations show preferential melting and mobilization of plagioclase and pyrrhotite associated with melt pocket and vein margins, contributing to the enrichments. Estimates of shock melt bulk compositions obtained from glass analyses are biased towards Fe- and Mg- depletions because, in general, basaltic melts produced from groundmass minerals (plagioclase and clinopyroxene) will quench to a glass, whereas ultramafic melts produced from olivine and low-Ca pyroxene megacrysts crystallize during the quench. We also note that the bulk composition of the shock melt pocket cannot be determined from the average composition of the glass but must also include the crystals that grew from the melt - pyroxene (En (sub 72-75) Fs (sub 20-21) Wo (sub 5-7) ) and olivine (Fo (sub 75-80) ). Reconstruction of glass+crystal analyses gives a bulk composition for the melt pocket that approaches that of lithology A of the meteorite, reflecting bulk melting of everything except xenolith chromite. Our results show that EETA79001 shock veins and melt pockets represent local mineral melts formed by shock impedance contrasts, which can account for the observed compositional anomalies compared to the whole rock sample. The observation that melts produced during shock commonly deviate from the bulk composition of the host rock has been well documented from chondrites, rocks from terrestrial impact structures and other Martian meteorites. The bulk composition of shock melts reflects the proportions of minerals melted; large melt pockets encompass more minerals and approach the whole rock whereas small melt pockets and thin veins reflect local mineralogy. In the latter, the modal abundance of sulfide globules may reach up to 15 vol%. We conclude the shock melt pockets in EETA79001 lithology A contain no significant proportion of Martian regolith.

Publication Information

Walton. E. L., Jugo, P. & Herd C. D. K. (2010). Martian regolith in Elephant Moraine 79001 shock melts? Evidence from major element composition and sulfur speciation. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 74(16), 4829-4843. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2010.04.065


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