Sutter’s Mill dicarboxylic acids as possible tracers of parent-body alteration processes

Pizzarello S. and Garvie L.A.J.

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12264


Dicarboxylic acids were searched for in three Sutter’s Mill (SM) fragments (SM2 collected prerain, SM12, and SM41) and found to occur almost exclusively as linear species of 3- to 14-carbon long. Between these, concentrations were low, with measured quantities typically less than 10 nmole g−1 of meteorite and a maximum of 6.8 nmole g−1 of meteorite for suberic acid in SM12. The SM acids’ molecular distribution is consistent with a nonbiological origin and differs from those of CMs, such as Murchison or Murray, and of some stones of the C2-ungrouped Tagish Lake meteorite, where they are abundant and varied. Powder X-ray diffraction of SM12 and SM41 show them to be dominated by clays/amorphous material, with lesser amounts of Fe-sulfides, magnetite, and calcite. Thermal gravimetric (TG) analysis shows mass losses up to 1000 °C of 11.4% (SM12) and 9.4% (SM41). These losses are low compared with other clay-rich carbonaceous chondrites, such as Murchison (14.5%) and Orgueil (21.1%). The TG data are indicative of partially dehydrated clays, in accordance with published work on SM2, for which mineralogical studies suggest asteroidal heating to around 500 °C. In view of these compositional traits and mineralogical features, it is suggested that the dicarboxylic acids observed in the SM fragments we analyzed likely represent a combination of molecular species original to the meteorite as well as secondary products formed during parent-body alteration processes, such as asteroidal heating.