The classification of relict extraterrestrial chrome spinels using STEM techniques on silicate inclusions

Caroline E. Caplan, Gary R. Huss, Hope A. Ishii, John P. Bradley, Birger Schmitz, and Kazuhide Nagashima

Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Version of Record online: 04 April 2021


“Remnant extraterrestrial chrome spinels from terrestrial sediments provide information on how the mixture of meteoritic materials falling to Earth has changed over Earth’s history. The parent meteorite type of each grain can be identified by characteristic elemental and oxygen‐isotope abundances. Some meteorite types can be difficult to classify because their chrome‐spinel compositional ranges overlap. Silicate inclusions within chrome spinels of modern ordinary chondrites have been shown to have discriminating power among meteorite subclasses. We employed energy‐dispersive X‐ray spectroscopy in a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and in a (scanning) transmission electron microscope (S/TEM) to investigate inclusions in chrome‐spinel grains from Ordovician and Jurassic sediments. Unaltered Ordovician inclusions allowed us to establish the size limits for reliable SEM analysis of inclusions. The Jurassic grains were more altered, but the use of STEM techniques on small inclusions (<3 μm diameter at their polished surfaces) allowed us to determine chemical compositions and mineral structures of inclusions in three chrome spinels. The parent meteorite type was determined for one Jurassic grain based on its inclusion compositions. Our study confirms that silicate inclusions can be used to classify parent meteorite types of chrome‐spinel grains, but the size of the inclusions and the complex effects of terrestrial alteration must be taken into account. During our study, we also found some interesting exsolution phenomena in the host chrome‐spinel grains.”