Xenoliths in ordinary chondrites and ureilites: Implications for early solar system dynamics

Goodrich, Cyrena Anne; Kring, David A. and Greenwood, Richard C. (2021). Xenoliths in ordinary chondrites and ureilites: Implications for early solar system dynamics. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 56(11) pp. 1949–1987.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.13738


Foreign clasts (xenoliths) in meteoritic breccias are a serendipitous source of information about the impact environment in which their hosts formed, including impactor flux and cosmochemical types. These parameters may be related to timing and/or heliocentric distance of xenolith origin and implantation, and thus can be used to test or inform models of early solar system dynamics. We use xenoliths in ordinary chondrites (OCs) and ureilites to do this. We first conducted a petrologic and oxygen isotope study of a new, cm-sized igneous-textured clast in L3.7 Northwest Africa (NWA) 092, which highlighted some of the difficulties of identifying xenoliths in meteorites. Results indicate that this clast is not a xenolith but an impact melt of non-local OC material. We add this result to a literature survey of more than 3000 OCs and find that the fraction of OCs that contain xenoliths is <<1%, and, even in these, the abundance and the diversity of xenoliths are very low. This contrasts markedly with the ureilites, ˜5% of which contain ˜1–10 vol% xenoliths from every major meteorite class, including multiple groups and petrologic types. To investigate reasons for this difference, we compare the histories of OC and ureilite parent bodies. The OC and ureilitic parent bodies accreted in the inner solar system within ˜1 AU of one another. The OC bodies accreted ˜2–3 Myr after calcium-aluminum-rich inclusion (CAI) formation and were heated slowly, experiencing thermal metamorphism over ˜50–60 Myr. The ureilite parent body (UPB) accreted <1 Myr after CAIs and was heated rapidly, experiencing partial melting over ˜4 Myr. Both OC parent bodies and the UPB were catastrophically disrupted and reassembled into rubble piles. For ureilites, this occurred ˜5.0–5.4 Ma after CAIs, while for OCs, it did not occur until 50–60 Myr after CAIs. Xenoliths in OC and ureilitic breccias were acquired as fragments of impactors on the rubble piles. The presence in polymict ureilites of xenoliths of all OC groups (H, L, LL) and petrologic types (3–6), and the intimate scale on which these and myriad other xenolith types are mixed, indicate that most xenoliths were acquired within a short time period around ˜50–60 Myr after CAIs when OC (likely also Rumuruti chondrite and enstatite chondrite) parent bodies were disrupted. This timing is consistent with the early instability dynamical model for a period of excitation in the asteroid belt. Outer solar system (CC) xenoliths were also acquired during this period, but were derived indirectly from C-type bodies that had already been emplaced in orbits in the asteroid belt. The large discrepancy in xenolith abundance between ureilites and OC may be due to different physical properties of their regoliths at 50–60 Myr after CAIs. CC-like xenoliths in OC may represent a different, more recently acquired, population than those in polymict ureilites.

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