Mass-dependent nickel isotopic variations in achondrites and lunar rocks

Shui-Jiong Wang, Shi-Jie Li, Yangting Lin, Si-Zhang Sheng

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 11 April 2023


“We present high-precision mass-dependent nickel isotopic data for a comprehensive suite of achondrites and lunar rocks, providing key insights into the early planetary differentiation and Earth-Moon system formation. The primitive achondrites display high Ni contents and invariant Ni isotopic compositions. Incomplete core-mantle differentiation in primitive achondrite parent bodies resulted in the retention of metal in the mantle, which dominated the Ni budget and accounted for the bulk chondritic Ni isotopic values. The highly reduced differentiated achondrites, aubrites and an ungrouped achondrite (NWA 8409), have variable, and extremely light Ni isotopic compositions. Acid leaching experiments demonstrate that the sulfides are a significant host of light Ni isotopes in aubrites. The most extreme Ni isotope values of aubrites may be due to large Ni isotope fractionation accompanied by silicate-sulfide-metal separation during differentiation of the parent bodies, and subsequent global disruptive collision and reassembly with variably high proportions of sulfides enriched in the mantle. The howardite-eucrite-diogenite (HED) meteorites show Ni isotopic variations that are positively correlated with Ni/Co ratios, a feature that cannot be produced by igneous differentiation. Late accretion of high-Ni and high-Ni/Co chondritic materials after core formation of their likely parent body, Vesta, could have accounted for this correlation. Thus, the primitive silicate mantle of Vesta may have sub-chondritic Ni isotopic compositions, implying possible Ni isotope fractionation during core-mantle differentiation of small planet bodies. The lunar breccia meteorites have homogenously chondritic Ni isotope values, together with their high Ni/Co of bulk rock and metals therein, suggesting impact contamination. Lunar basalt meteorites have low Ni/Co ratios and are systematically isotopically lighter than the breccias, displaying a positive correlation between Ni isotope value and Ni/Co ratio, as that seen in the HEDs. Therefore, the Ni isotopic systematics in lunar rocks also indicates the effect of late accretion, with the primitive lunar mantle having sub-chondritic Ni isotope values. This implies that the Moon-forming impactor, Theia, was likely an aubrite-like differentiated planetary body whose mantle was enriched in light Ni isotopes. We suggest that there was significant Ni isotope fractionation between core and mantle during differentiation of early formed small planetary bodies, but this signature can be obscured by late accretion in the bulk achondrite records.”