The H content of aubrites: An evaluation of bulk versus in situ methods for quantifying water in meteorites

Liam D. Peterson, Megan E. Newcombe, Conel M.O’D. Alexander, Jianhua Wang, Frieder Klein, David V. Bekaert, Sune G. Nielsen

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 620, 15 October 2023, 118341


“Aubrites and enstatite chondrites (ECs) are isotopically similar to the Earth and therefore may resemble the primary materials that accreted to form our planet. Recent bulk H elemental and isotopic analyses of ECs and the Norton County aubrite suggest that enstatite-rich materials are H-rich and may represent a significant source of terrestrial water, with measured values of 3000±2000 μg/g H2O and 5300±900 μg/g H2O in the bulk and enstatite fractions of Norton County (Piani et al., Science, 2020). Here, we present a detailed investigation of in situ H2O concentrations in enstatite, diopside, forsterite, and plagioclase from a suite of main group aubrites, including Norton County, and Shallowater. We find that enstatite (4±2 μg/g H2O), diopside (4.8±0.5 μg/g H2O), and forsterite (5±3 μg/g H2O) have similar H2O concentrations, and all are significantly lower than plagioclase (24±3 μg/g H2O). We combine our in situ analyses of H2O contents with equilibrium partition coefficients and bulk mineralogies to estimate the bulk H2O content of our samples. We compare these first order estimates with bulk volatile analyses conducted using sample pyrolysis and find that the previous bulk H2O analyses of aubrites predominantly reflect terrestrial contamination and alteration. If our conclusion that the reported bulk H2O analyses of Norton County primarily reflect terrestrial contamination and alteration extends to bulk analyses of ECs, then EC-like material may not be a significant source of terrestrial water. Our results support the hypothesis that thermal metamorphism, melting, and differentiation leads to efficient desiccation of planetesimals relative to chondrites, and that differentiated planetesimals contributed, at most, trace amounts to Earth’s water budget.”