Maskelynite in asteroidal, lunar and planetary basaltic meteorites: An indicator of shock pressure during impact ejection from their parent bodies

Alan E. Rubin

Icarus, available online 16 May 2015


Maskelynite is a diaplectic glass that forms from plagioclase at shock pressures of ∼20-30 GPa, depending on the Ca concentration. The proportion of maskelynite-rich samples in a basaltic meteorite group correlates with the parent-body escape velocity and serves as a shock indicator of launching conditions. For eucrites (basalts widely presumed to be from Vesta; vesc = 0.36 km s-1), ∼5% of the samples are maskelynite rich. For the Moon (vesc = 2.38 km s-1), ∼30% of basaltic meteorites are maskelynite rich. For Mars (vesc = 5.03 km s-1), ∼93% of basaltic meteorites are maskelynite rich. In contrast, literature data show that maskelynite is rare (∼1%) among mare basalts and basaltic fragments in Apollo 11, 12, 15 and 17 soils (which were never ejected from the Moon). Angrites are unbrecciated basaltic meteorites that are maskelynite free; they were ejected at low-to-moderate shock pressures from an asteroid smaller than Vesta.

Because most impacts that eject materials from a large (⩾100 km) parent body are barely energetic enough to do that, a collision that has little more than the threshold energy required to eject a sample from Vesta will not be able to eject identical samples from the Moon or Mars. There must have been relatively few impacts, if any, that launched eucrites off their parent body that also imparted shock pressures of ∼20-30 GPa in the ejected rocks. More-energetic impacts were required to launch basalts off the Moon and Mars. On average, Vesta ejecta were subjected to lower shock pressures than lunar ejecta, and lunar ejecta were subjected to lower shock pressures than martian ejecta.

H and LL ordinary chondrites have low percentages of shock-stage S5 maskelynite-bearing samples (∼1% and ∼4%, respectively), probably reflecting shock processes experienced by these rocks on their parent asteroids. In contrast, L chondrites have a relatively high proportion of samples containing maskelynite (∼11%), most likely a result of catastrophic parent-body disruption 470 Ma ago.