Noble gases in CM carbonaceous chondrites: Effect of parent body aqueous and thermal alteration and cosmic ray exposure ages

Krietsch, Daniela; Busemann, Henner; Riebe, My E.I.; King, Ashley J.; M.O'D. Alexander, Conel and Maden, Colin (2021). Noble gases in CM carbonaceous chondrites: Effect of parent body aqueous and thermal alteration and cosmic ray exposure ages. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2021.05.050

Abstract

Like most primitive carbonaceous chondrites, the CM chondrites experienced varying degrees of asteroidal aqueous alteration, which may have overprinted pre-accretionary processing. Several aqueous alteration scales for CM chondrites (and other carbonaceous chondrites) have been proposed based on alteration-dependent changes in various petrological and geochemical characteristics. Given the possibility that the intensity of aqueous alteration could be recorded in the primordial noble gas compositions, we test potential correlations between petrologic, geochemical and noble gas characteristics in a detailed study on 39 CM chondrites, including some of the most pristine CM chondrites identified to date, and 4 CM-related carbonaceous chondrites. We mainly compare our noble gas data with the alteration schemes proposed by Alexander et al. (2013) and Howard et al. (2015). In addition to the noble gas analyses, we determined the phyllosilicate fractions of 17 of the CM chondrites using X-ray diffraction (XRD) to complement missing data points in the Howard alteration scheme. The influence of post-hydration thermal modification on noble gases in CM chondrites is investigated by comparison of heated and unheated samples. Cosmic-ray exposure (CRE) ages are determined for all samples in this study as well as for 26 more samples based on CM chondrite literature noble gas data.

The noble gas inventory in CM chondrites represents a mixture of cosmogenic, radiogenic, and abundant primordially trapped noble gases. Additionally, about 50 % of our CM bulk samples contain detectable solar wind (SW), which implies that many but not all CM chondrites are regolith breccias or carry SW from a pre-accretion irradiation phase. Aqueous alteration affects primordial noble gas abundances and elemental and isotopic compositions in CM chondrites. In particular, the process causes loss of an Ar-rich component, different in elemental and isotopic composition to known noble gas components. This component is lost during the early stages of aqueous alteration until complete degassing of its carrier material (possibly upon at least partial destruction) below petrologic type of ∼1.5 on the Howard et al. (2015) scale. Likely, small amounts of Q gases were additionally released by aqueous alteration. Strong thermal modification at >750 °C results in a significant additional loss of noble gases, whereas peak temperatures <500 °C likely have minor effects on the noble gas inventories of CM chondrites. Some of the described trends of noble gas contents and elemental and isotopic ratios in this study are observable across multiple carbonaceous chondrite groups, in particular also the CR chondrites. Hence, these carbonaceous chondrites may have started with similar initial noble gas inventories due to accretion of material from a common reservoir. The CRE ages of most of our CM samples fall within the typical range of <10 Myr previously observed for CM chondrites. A few CM chondrites, however, show longer CRE ages, with the longest CRE age of ∼20 Myr determined for the SW-rich CM Allan Hills (ALH) 85013. The degree of aqueous and thermal alteration is variable among CM chondrites with similar CRE ages.

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