Reassessing the Cooling Rate and Geologic Setting of Martian Meteorites MIL 03346 and NWA 817

Frank Richter, Marc Chaussidon, Ruslan Mendybaev, Edwin Kite

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 27 February 2016


“Lithium concentration and isotopic fractionation profiles across augite grains from two Martian meteorites – MIL 03346 and NWA 817 – were used to determine their thermal history and implications for their geologic setting. The iron-magnesium zoning and associated magnesium isotopic fractionation of olivine grains from NWA 817 were also measured and provide a separate estimate of the cooling rate. The observed correlation of concentration with isotopic fractionation provides the essential evidence that the zoning of these grains was in fact due to diffusion and thus can be used as a measure of their cooling rate. The diffusion rate of lithium in augite depends on the oxygen fugacity, which has to be taken into account when determining a cooling rate based on the lithium zoning. The Fe-Mg exchange in olivine is much less sensitive to oxygen fugacity, but it is significantly anisotropic and for this reason we determined the direction relative to crystallographic axes of the line along which the Fe-Mg zoning was measured. We found that the cooling rate of NWA 817 determined from the lithium zoning in augite grains and that based on the Fe-Mg zoning of olivines are in good agreement at an oxygen fugacity close to that of quartz-fayalite-magnetite oxygen buffer. The cooling rate of MIL 03346 was found to be resolvably faster than that of NWA 817 – of the order of 1°C/hr for the former and of the order of 0.2°C/hr for the latter. An important observation regarding the history of MIL 03346 and NWA 817 is that the lithium and Fe-Mg zoning are only observed where the augite or olivine is in contact with the mesostasis, which implies that they were already about 80% crystallized at the time diffusion began. The augite and olivine core compositions while very homogeneous are not in equilibrium with each other, which we interpret to imply that prior to the rapid cooling there must have been a protracted period of the order of years above the solidus, during which the much faster Fe-Mg exchange in olivine compared to that in augite allowed the olivine to maintain equilibrium with a changing melt composition while the augite was not significantly affected. We suggest two possible geological settings for the origin and evolution of MIL 03346 and NWA 817: (1) A slow cooling stage in a crystallization front in a crustal magma chamber, followed by eruption of melt plus portions of the crystallization front onto the surface where the final fast cooling took place at the bottom of a lava flow or melt pond, and (2) Eruption of a crystal laden melt as a thick long-lived lava flow where the crystals continued to grow as a cumulate and were rapidly cooled when the overlying lava layer was suddenly drained.”