The H2O content of the ureilite parent body

Liam D. Peterson, Megan E. Newcombe, Conel M. O’D. Alexander, Jianhua Wang, Adam R. Sarafian, Addi Bischoff, Sune G. Nielsen

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 2 November 2022


“The fate of highly volatile elements (H, C, F, Cl and S) during planetary accretion and differentiation is debated. Recent analyses of water in non-carbonaceous chondrites (RC, OC, EC) and achondrites (angrites, eucrites) have been used to argue that inner solar system parent bodies accreted and retained their highly volatile element budgets from their primary feedstock without substantial loss during accretion, metamorphism and differentiation. An alternative model posits that differentiated inner solar system parent bodies (e.g., the angrite parent body, 4 Vesta, Earth) derived the majority of their water from a carbonaceous chondrite-like source, delivered during the final stages of accretion.

In order to add new constraints to this debate, we have measured water in nominally anhydrous minerals, melt inclusions, and interstitial glass in ureilites, the largest group of primitive achondrites in the terrestrial meteorite collection. Primitive achondrites did not experience global melting and homogenization. Therefore, these meteorites capture part of the transition from chondritic to achondritic parent bodies, allowing us to constrain the fate of water during the earliest stages of differentiation. Our nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) analyses allow us to assess the viability of ureilite-like material as a potential source of terrestrial water. Analyses of pigeonite in main group ureilites yield a range of 2.0 – 6.0 µg/g H2O, and analyses of high-Ca pyroxene and glass (glassy melt inclusions and interstitial glass) in the Almahata Sitta ureilitic trachyandesite yield ranges of 13 – 19 µg/g H2O and 44 – 216 µg/g H2O, respectively. Mass balance, incremental melting, and batch melting calculations yield a preferred ureilite parent body H2O content of 2 – 20 µg/g, similar to previous estimates of water in the eucrite parent body (4 Vesta), but lower than estimates of Earth’s water budget. With these data, we demonstrate that 1) the ureilite parent body is H2O-depleted relative to the Earth; 2) ureilite-like material is unlikely to be a primary source of H2O to the Earth; 3) C and H are not necessarily coupled elements during planetary accretion and thermal processing; and 4) accretion, heating, partial melting, and degassing of rocky planetesimals likely results in significant depletion of H2O.”