Elemental and oxygen isotopic fractionation recorded in highly vaporized cosmic spherules from Widerøefjellet, Sør Rondane Mountains (East Antarctica)

Tom Boonants, Steven Goderis, Bastien Soens, Flore Van Maldeghem, Stepan M. Chernonozhkin, Frank Vanhaecke, Matthias van Ginneken, Christophe Snoeck, Philippe Claeys

MAPS, Version of Record online: 13 May 2024


“Upon passage through Earth’s atmosphere, micrometeorites undergo variable degrees of melting and evaporation. Among the various textural and chemical groups recognized among cosmic spherules, that is, melted micrometeorites, a subset of particles may indicate anomalously high degrees of vaporization based on their chemical and isotopic properties. Here, a selection of such refractory element-enriched cosmic spherules from Widerøefjellet (Sør Rondane Mountains, East Antarctica) is characterized for their petrographic features, major and trace element concentrations (N = 35), and oxygen isotopic compositions (N = 23). Following chemical classification, the highly vaporized particles can be assigned to either the “CAT-like” or the “High Ca-Al” cosmic spherule groups. However, through the combination of major and trace element concentrations and oxygen isotopic data, a larger diversity of processes and precursor materials are identified that lead to the final compositions of refractory element-enriched particles. These include fragmentation, disproportional sampling of specific mineral constituents, differential melting, metal bead extraction, redox shifts, and evaporation. Based on specific element concentrations (e.g., Sc, Zr, Eu, Tm) and ratios (e.g., Fe/Mg, CaO + Al2O3/Sc + Y + Zr + Hf), and variations of O isotope compositions, “CAT-like” and “High Ca-Al” cosmic spherules likely represent a continuum between mineral endmembers from both primitive and differentiated parent bodies that experienced variable degrees of evaporation.”