Constraints on the ice composition of carbonaceous chondrites from their magnetic mineralogy

Sanjana Sridhar, James F.J. Bryson, Ashley J. King, Richard J. Harrison

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 576, 15 December 2021, 117243



• Aqueous alteration was a key event during the history of carbonaceous chondrites.
• We explored this process by examining the morphology of magnetite among chondrites.
• CO & CM chondrites exhibit different magnetite morphologies to CI & C2 chondrites.
• This is seemingly due to different fluid compositions between these pairs of groups.
• This is most feasibly explained by the accretion of ammonia into CI & C2 chondrites.”

“Carbonaceous chondrites experienced varying degrees of aqueous alteration on their parent asteroids, which influenced their mineralogies, textures, and bulk chemical and isotopic compositions. Although this alteration was a crucial event in the history of these meteorites, their various alteration pathways are not well understood. One phase that formed during this alteration was magnetite, and its morphology and abundance vary between and within chondrite groups, providing a means of investigating chondrite aqueous alteration. We measured bulk magnetic properties and first-order reversal curve (FORC) diagrams of CM, CI, CO, and ungrouped C2 chondrites to identify the morphology and size range of magnetite present in these meteorites. We identify two predominant pathways of aqueous alteration among these meteorites that can be distinguished by the resultant morphology of magnetite. In WIS 91600, Tagish Lake, and CI chondrites, magnetite forms predominantly from Fe-sulfides as framboids and stacked plaquettes. In CM and CO chondrites, <0.1 μm single-domain (SD) magnetite and 0.1–5 μm vortex (V) state magnetite formed predominantly via the direct replacement of metal and Fe-sulfides. After ruling out differences in temperature, water: rock ratios, terrestrial weathering effects, and starting mineralogy, we hypothesise that the primary factor controlling the pathway of aqueous alteration was the composition of the ice accreted into each chondrite group’s parent body. Nebula condensation sequences predict that the most feasible method of appreciably evolving ice concentrations was the condensation of ammonia, which will have formed a more alkaline hydrous fluid upon melting, leading to fundamentally different conditions that may have caused the formation of different magnetite morphologies. As such, we suggest that WIS 91600, Tagish Lake, and the CI chondrites accreted past the ammonia ice line, supporting a more distal or younger accretion of their parent asteroids.”