A short-lived 26Al induced hydrothermal alteration event in the outer solar system: Constraints from Mn/Cr ages of carbonates

Robbin Visser, Timm John, Martin J. Whitehouse, Markus Patzek, Addi Bischoff

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 547, 1 October 2020, 116440



• Carbonates in low-T formed chondrites and clasts precipitated 2-6 Ma after CAI.
• The precipitation was induced by the early heating caused by 26Al decay.
• Hydrothermal alteration was a near-contemporaneous event in the outer solar system.
• Carbonate formation induced by other processes such as impact heating unlikely.
• Isotopic differences of clasts and chondrites are caused by different reservoirs.

“A key process in the early solar system that significantly affects the further evolution and transport of highly volatile elements throughout the solar system hydrothermal parent body alteration. To determine whether hydrothermal alteration in outer solar system parent bodies occurred more or less simultaneously or due to a sequence of multiple different events, we investigated low-temperature hydrothermally altered CM and CI chondrites along with volatile-rich CM-like clasts and C1 clasts with abundant mineral phases that contain volatiles. In this respect, C1 clasts are particularly important as they closely resemble the CI chondrites but originate from isotopically different parent bodies. Specifically, we applied the SIMS-based Mn/Cr in situ dating technique to carbonates, a common hydrothermally formed phase in low-temperature hydrothermally altered meteorites. The Mn/Cr ages of dolomites in CI chondrites and C1 clasts as well as calcites in CM chondrites and CM-like clasts reveal that nearly all carbonates in low-temperature hydrothermally altered clasts and chondrites were formed within a brief period between 2-6 Ma after CAI formation. Given this sharp separation, and that hardly any material contains carbonates formed later than ∼6 Ma after CAI formation, hydrothermal alteration likely occurred near-contemporaneously among different parent bodies in the outer solar system. Further, the timing of hydrothermal alteration matches peak heating of 26Al decay that ceased at ∼5 Ma after CAI formation. Hereby, these results are consistent with a model in which the carbonates in low-temperature hydrothermally altered parent bodies precipitated from the fluid produced by melting ice. The results also show that other potential heating events (e.g., impacts) only negligibly contributed to creating environments where fluid-mediated dissolution and precipitation of carbonates was possible. Additionally, the isotopic (H, O, Cr, and S) differences between C1 clasts and CI chondrites are most likely not caused by differences in timing of hydrothermal aqueous alteration and, thus, are best explained by spatially different isotopic reservoirs.”