Cosmochemical and spectroscopic properties of Northwest Africa 7325—A consortium study

Weber, I., Morlok, A., Bischoff, A., Hiesinger, H., Ward, D., Joy, K. H., Crowther, S. A., Jastrzebski, N. D., Gilmour, J. D., Clay, P. L., Wogelius, R. A., Greenwood, R. C., Franchi, I. A. and Münker, C.

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12586
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2015
DOI: 10.1111/maps.12586


“This work is part of a project to build an infrared database in order to link IR data of planetary materials (and therefore possible Mercury material) with remote sensing observations of Mercury, which will probably be obtained by the MERTIS instrument on the forthcoming BepiColombo mission.

The unique achondrite Northwest Africa (NWA) 7325, which has previously been suggested to represent the first sample from Mercury, was investigated by optical and electron microscopy, and infrared and Raman spectroscopy. In addition, the oxygen, strontium, xenon, and argon isotopes were measured and the abundance of selected trace elements determined. The meteorite is a cumulate rock with subchondritic abundances of HFSE and REE and elevated Sr contents, which underwent a second heating and partial remelting process. Oxygen isotope measurements show that NWA 7325 plots in the ureilite field, close to the ALM-A trachyandesitic fragment found in the unique Almahata Sitta meteorite breccia. On the other hand, mineralogical investigations of the pyroxenes in NWA 7325 provide evidence for similarities to the lodranites and acapulcoites. Furthermore, the rock is weakly shocked and argon isotope data record ancient (~4.5 Ga) plateau ages that have not been reset. The sample records a cosmogenic exposure age of ~19 Ma. Systematics of Rb-Sr indicate an extreme early volatile depletion of the precursor material, similar to many other achondrite groups. However, despite its compositional similarities to other meteorite groups, our results suggest that this meteorite is unique and unrelated to any other known achondrite group. An origin for NWA 7325 as a sample from the planet Mercury is not supported by the results of our investigation. In particular, the evidence from infrared spectroscopy indicates that a direct relationship between NWA 7325 and the planet Mercury can be ruled out: no acceptable spectral match between laboratory analyses and remote sensing observations from Mercury has been obtained. However, we demonstrate that infrared spectroscopy is a rapid and nondestructive method to characterize mineral phases and thus an excellent tool for planetary surface characterization in space missions.”