Quenched primary melt in Ramlat as Sahmah 517 – Snapshot of ureilite anatexis in the early solar system

Åke V. Rosén, Jonas Pape, Beda A. Hofmann, Edwin Gnos, Marcel Guillong

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta


“Ureilites are the second largest group of achondrite meteorites but consensus is still lacking on the nature of their precursors, melting processes, and the genetic relationship between monomict ureilites and brecciated ureilites. The recently found ureilite Ramlat as Sahmah 517 is of special interest in this context. This meteorite lacks shock features in its primary silicates and belongs to a rare augite- and chromite-bearing subset of the monomict ferroan ureilites. It hosts abundant intergranular glass veinlets speckled with pyroxene and metal globules. Detailed petrographic investigations show that the Si-Al rich glass represents quenched anatectic melt that was present prior to formation of the reduced olivine rims by incomplete low-pressure equilibration (smelting) of carbon and silicates. The melt facilitated smelting which, along with rapid crystallization of secondary pyroxene, modified the originally trachyandesitic melt. Melt-silicate equilibrium preceding these events is constrained by modelling using MELTS and the first reported in-situ measurements of LREE-enriched glass that is largely complementary to the depleted mafic silicates in monomict ureilites. The inferred major element composition of the partial melt that formed in RaS 517 is similar to that of trachyandesite in Almahata Sitta but RaS 517 lacks phosphates which are abundant in the Almahata Sitta trachyandesite and in alkali-rich feldspathic clasts in polymict ureilites. The LREE-depletion in the dominant monomict ferroan ureilite population can be explained by the formation of melt fractions similar to the glass in RaS 517 after initial rapid melting of phosphates. These finds provide evidence for a genetic relationship between ferroan ureilites and lithologies similar to the Almahata Sitta trachyandesite and further suggest that these ureilites formed by partial melting of P- and alkali-rich precursors with trace element concentrations similar to equilibrated ordinary chondrites. Quenched Si-Al rich glass also occurs in magnesian ureilites but has lower concentrations of alkalis and LREE-depleted trace element signatures which can reflect more depleted compositions at the onset of partial melting. The evidence presented here favors a scenario in which the primary ureilite differentiation was driven by gradual heating from radioactive decay with resulting temperatures (>1100 °C) being maintained until disruption of the ureilite parent asteroid.”