Secondary melting events in Semarkona chondrules revealed by compositional zoning in low-Ca pyroxene

Bastian Baecker, Alan E. Rubin, John T. Wasson

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 17 May 2017


“It is well established that many chondrules contain relict grains formed in previous generations of chondrules. We here describe evidence that chondrules experienced multiple mesostasis melting events while remaining closed systems. Spheroidal chondrule shapes resulted from surface-tension effects following a primary heating event that caused substantial melting (≳40%) of the precursor assemblages. In some high-FeO chondrules in LL3.00 Semarkona, low-Ca pyroxene phenocrysts show multiple overgrowth layers produced by secondary melting events. We characterized these layers with the electron microprobe in terms of Fe, Ca and Cr in two Semarkona chondrules.

The first low-Ca pyroxene overgrowth that forms after a minor heating/melting event has low Ca and Fe; concentrations of these incompatibles gradually increase over the next 8±4 μm until falling temperatures and slowing diffusion caused growth to stop. The next melting event remelts and mixes the local mesostasis; cooling causes growth of a normal igneously zoned layer. In the simplest cases, the Ca concentrations at the minima gradually increase towards the edge of the phenocryst. Heat deposition during heating events varied over a wide range; the weakest events produced recognizable changes in slopes (that we call “inflections” rather than minima). Large fractions of the individual phenocrysts were formed by the process that produced the overgrowth layers. It appears that overgrowth formation stopped when the Ca content of the mesostasis became high enough to make high-Ca pyroxene a liquidus phase.

Both Semarkona chondrules include olivine phenocrysts similar in size and modal abundance to the low-Ca pyroxene phenocrysts. Olivine compositional profiles show symmetrical, apparently normal zoning except for asymmetries attributable to the presence of relict grains. Surface compositions of different olivine phenocrysts in the same chondrule are very similar to one another, consistent with growth from mesostasis in the present chondrule. Hence, these olivines must have experienced the same heating events as the pyroxenes with overgrowths.

As argued in earlier papers, the fraction of chondrules heated to low temperatures (sufficient to melt only mesostasis) during nebular heating and melting processes is much larger than the fraction heated sufficiently to melt half or more of the mafic minerals. Melting is expected to result from flash heating in which heat is transported into the chondrule by radiation.”