Morphological Study of Insoluble Organic Matter from Carbonaceous Chondrites: Correlation with Petrologic Grade

Hitesh G. Changela, George D. Cody, Conel M.O’D. Alexander, Z Peeters, Larry R. Nittler, Rhonda M. Stroud

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
available online 16 February 2015


The major form of organic material delivered to earth from an extraterrestrial origin is Insoluble Organic Matter (IOM). A morphological study of IOM in the CR (Renazzo-type) and CM (Mighei-type) carbonaceous chondrites was performed in order to constrain its origins and processing history. IOM residues from the following CR chondrites: GRO 95577 (CR 1), Al Rais (CR 1/2), EET 92042 (CR 2), QUE 99177 (CR 3) and the CM chondrites: MET 01070 (CM 2.2), Cold Bokkeveld (CM 2.3), Murchison (CM 2.4) and QUE 97990 (CM 2.5) were studied using Annular Dark Field STEM imaging. Characteristic features of the IOM, organic nanoglobules, were manually identified and measured for their abundances and size distributions. The IOM residues were also compared holistically for their degree of average ‘roughness’ or ‘coarsening’ using fractal image analysis. Manually identified nanoglobules have abundances making up less than 10% of the total IOM, which is consistent with previous studies. Their measured abundances do not correlate with petrologic grade. Thus parent body processing did not systematically deplete their abundances. The IOM is however on average ‘smoother’ or ‘coarser’ in the more altered chondrites, demonstrated by a lower fractal dimension using fractal box counting (DB). The DB values for the IOM in the CR chondrites are distinctive: QUE 99177 has the largest DB value (average = 1.54 ± 0.004) and GRO 99577 has the lowest (average = 1.45 ± 0.011). Al Rais and EET 92042 have IOM with average DB values within this range (average, 1.46 ± 0.009 and 1.50 ± 0.006). The CMs record a similar but less distinctive trend in DB, with QUE 97990 having the largest value (1.52 ± 0.004), MET 01070 the lowest (1.45 ± 0.019), and Cold Bokkeveld (1.50 ± 0.011) and Murchison (1.49 ± 0.017) equivalent to one another within error. The identified nanoglobules in the IOM of the CM chondrites are on average larger than those in the CR chondrites. The ‘coarsening’ or ‘smoother’ texture of the IOM (lower DB) in the more altered chondrites coupled with a tentative increase in the size of large features (identified nanoglobules) demonstrates that the aqueous processes leading to the lower petrologic types also formed the overall IOM morphology. In addition, observations of fluid-like textures more frequently found in the more altered carbonaceous chondrite residues suggests that organic and aqueous fluids determined at least some of these morphologies. The polymerisation of organic solutions is consistent with these morphologies. Their formation conditions are more favourable under containment in carbonaceous chondrite parent bodies.