Terrestrial Alteration Mineral Assemblages in the NWA 10416 Olivine Phyric Shergottite

J.D. Piercy, J.C. Bridges, L.J. Hicks, J.L. MacArthur, R.C. Greenwood, I.A. Franchi

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 4 April 2020


“We report on the alteration history of the olivine-phyric, highly depleted (HD) shergottite, Northwest Africa (NWA) 10416, paying particular attention to the origin of the aqueous alteration seen affecting the meteorite’s olivine megacrysts. The rock’s interior displays 1 mm, zoned, altered olivine megacrysts set in a groundmass of clinopyroxene, unzoned olivine, and interstitial plagioclase and maskelynite. Synchrotron micro X-ray diffraction (µ-XRD) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) show that plagioclase and maskelynite have been partially replaced by kaolinite. The relict olivine megacryst cores display a unique concentric colouration for Martian meteorites, having central amber-coloured zones surrounded by a brown mantle zone, with the rims remaining clear and unaltered. This colouration is a result of fluid alteration and partial replacement, with hydration. TEM analysis revealed the ∼200 nm scale banded and largely amorphous nature of the alteration, but with some (∼ 20%) relict crystalline olivine patches. Although the coloured olivine zones show cation and anion site vacancies compared to stoichiometric olivine, a relict igneous compositional trend is preserved in the megacrysts, from Mg-rich altered cores (Mg# = 76) to unaltered stoichiometric rims (Fo53). Synchrotron Fe-K X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) analysis revealed that the coloured zones of the megacryst have different Fe oxidation values. High ferric contents are present in the brown mantle zones (Fe3+/ΣFe ≤ 0.92) and the amber zones (Fe3+/ΣFe ≤ 0.30), whereas the clear rims are ferrous. This suggests alteration occurred in an oxidising environment and that the sharp contrast in colour of the megacryst (brown to clear) is a record of a relict fluid reaction front.

In order to test the terrestrial or extraterrestrial origin of the alteration, olivine material from a shock-melt vein was analysed by TEM. The analysis revealed 0.952 nm curved d-spacing’s from clay alteration undisturbed by any shock effects, strongly suggesting a terrestrial origin. The d-spacing values most likely represent a collapsed saponite or vermiculite, showing that in some places olivine has been replaced by crystalline clay.

Oxygen isotope analysis of bulk (Δ17O = 0.309 ± 0.009 (2σ) ‰) and amber-coloured megacryst material (= 0.271 ± 0.002 (2σ) ‰), are also consistent with terrestrial alteration. We propose a model in which, during the meteorite’s time in Northwest Africa, low-temperature, likely acidic, groundwater exploited fractures. The fluid altered the olivine megacrysts in a way that was controlled by the pre-existing, igneous compositional zonation, with Mg-rich olivine being more susceptible to alteration in this fluid environment. The plagioclase and maskelynite were also altered to a high degree. After the alteration event it is likely that NWA 10416 had a significant residence time in Northwest Africa, accounting for terrestrial calcite and the dehydration of some clay phases.”