HED zircons as a window into the solar system’s first crust: Decoupling primordial differentiation, metamorphism and impact events through textural and chemical studies

Melanie Barboni, Madeline Marquardt, Nicholas E. Timms, Elizabeth Ann Bell

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 14 May 2024


“The study of Howardite-Eucrite-Diogenite (HED) meteorites provides unique insights into early planet formation and the impact events that shaped the early Solar System. However, unraveling the complex history of the HED parent body (hypothesized to be the asteroid 4 Vesta) from whole-rock samples is challenging since most HEDs are impact-related breccias comprising mixed lithic and mineral fragments that experienced variable deformation and alteration. Combining U-Pb geochronology, trace element geochemistry, and microstructural analysis of zircon can unravel magmatic, metamorphic and impact processes through time to decipher the HED parent body evolution. Here we present textural (EBSD), geochronological (207Pb/206Pb SIMS dating) and geochemical data (Th/U, REE, Ti-in-zircon thermometry) on 61 zircon grains from melt breccia eucrites, unbrecciated/monomict/polymict eucrites, howardites and diogenites. Diverse textures indicate variable histories of impact deformation and high-temperature recrystallization. Undeformed, fractured zircons preserve primary zoning (CL, Th/U, REE) indicating magmatic and metamorphic origins. At least three magmatic zircon grains (Th/U > 0.3) give 207Pb/206Pb ages of 4558–4565 Ma, suggesting primary differentiation in the parent body first million years. Twenty metamorphic zircon grains (Th/U < 0.3) date to 4420–4568 Ma, indicating prolonged thermal metamorphism from impact heating and/or crustal cooling. Impact-recrystallized granular zircon grains reveal major impacts during and just after the parent body differentiation (4500–4560 Ma), plus later events potentially linked to synchronous impacts in the Solar System (e.g. the Moon). Similarity of metamorphic and shocked zircon ages (circa 4550–4450 Ma) suggests impacts occurred for ≥100 million years after the parent body formed.”