In-situ O-isotope analysis of relict spinel and forsterite in small (<200 μm) Antarctic micrometeorites – Samples of chondrules & CAIs from carbonaceous chondrites

Rudraswami, N. G.; Suttle, M.; Marrocchi, Y.; Taylor, S. and Villeneuve, J. (2022). In-situ O-isotope analysis of relict spinel and forsterite in small (<200 μm) Antarctic micrometeorites – Samples of chondrules & CAIs from carbonaceous chondrites. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 325 pp. 1–24.



We report high-precision secondary ion mass spectrometer triple oxygen isotope systematics (95 individual analyses) from 37 micrometeorites (MMs) collected from South Pole Water Well (SPWW), Antarctica. The study population focuses on unmelted coarse-grained (Cg) MMs (n = 23) with both multiple (n = 14) and single-mineral (n = 9) varieties investigated. We also analysed relict minerals in porphyritic cosmic spherules (n = 13) and the relict matrix in a single scoriaceous fine-grained (Fg) MM. The target minerals investigated are primarily olivine (Fo ∼ 43–99%) and spinel. Textural, chemical and isotopic data confirm that both olivine and spinel grains have retained their pre-atmospheric O-isotope compositions, allowing inferences to be drawn about their formation and parent body affinities. We separate the study population into three groups: spinel-free particles (consisting of the CgMMs and PO cosmic spherules), spinel-bearing MMs and the single FgMM.

Olivine grains in spinel-free MMs vary between δ17O: −12.6‰ and +3.5‰, δ18O: −9.6‰ and +7.5‰, and Δ17O: −9.5‰ and +1.3‰ and define a slope-1 profile in δ18O–δ17O isotope space. They are most likely fragmented chondrules, with both type I and type II varieties represented. Their observed Mg#-Δ17O distribution is best explained by a mixture of CM chondrules and either CR chondrules, Tagish Lake chondrules or WILD2 cometary silicates. One of these chondrule-like MMs has an isotopically heterogeneous composition, characterised by a single olivine grain with a markedly 16O-rich composition (Δ17O: −16.3‰), suggesting it is a relict silicate fragment of AOA material that was incorporated into the chondrule precursor.

We analysed 11 spinel grains in five spinel-bearing MMs. In all instances spinels are nearly pure MgAl2O4 with isotopically light (16O-rich) compositions (ranging from δ17O: −34.4‰ to −0.9‰, δ18O: −30.8‰ to +11.0‰, and Δ17O: −18.3‰ to −4.4‰). They are therefore 16O-poor relative to spinel found in unaltered CAIs, indicating a different origin. Grains with high Cr2O3 contents (>0.5 wt.%) are interpreted originating from Al-rich chondrule precursors, while low Cr2O3 spinels (<0.5 wt.%) are interpreted as CAI-derived material affected by parent body aqueous alteration.

Finally, we report a single FgMM with a 16O-poor composition (Δ17O > 0‰ and δ18O > +15.0‰). This particle adds to our growing inventory of water-rich C-type asteroid samples united by their formation history which is characterised by accretion of abundant heavy water.

Our work strongly supports findings from earlier in-situ O-isotope studies, concluding that small MMs overwhelmingly sample material from CC parent bodies and that CgMMs largely sample chondrules and, to a lesser extent, CAI material. The analysis of CgMMs therefore provides insights into the primitive O-isotope reservoirs that were present in the early solar system and how they interacted.

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