Asteroids accretion, differentiation, and break-up in the Vesta source region: evidence from cosmochemistry of mesosiderites

Iannini Lelarge, S.; Folco, L.; Masotta, M.; Greenwood, R. C.; Russell, S. S. and Bates, H. C. (2022). Asteroids accretion, differentiation, and break-up in the Vesta source region: evidence from cosmochemistry of mesosiderites. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 329 pp. 135–151.



The cosmochemistry of meteorites provides unique clues on asteroids accretion, differentiation, collisional break-up and reassembly - processes of critical importance for understanding planet formation in the early solar system. Mesosiderites are a complex group of achondrites whose nearly 50:50 metal-silicate composition is interpreted in the literature as resulting from the mixing of core and crustal materials derived from differentiated asteroids. Because of their complex nature and contrasting geochemical, isotopic, and spectroscopic data, the formation mechanism of mesosiderites is still poorly understood and is open to a large variety of planetary differentiation scenarios and collisional histories. In this study, based on new petrographic and geochemical data of 16 mesosiderites, we investigate in detail the proposal that mesosiderites are related to the howardite-eucrite-diogenite (HED) meteorite group, whose parent body is widely considered to be asteroid 4 Vesta (∼500 km diameter), the target of the recent NASA’s Dawn mission. We present the first high precision oxygen isotope analyses on the matrix of a set of mesosiderite samples, coupled with new chemical and petrographic analyses of mesosiderites Um Hadid, Estherville, and Mount Padbury. Concordant Δ17O values between mesosiderites (–0.241 ± 0.015 (2σ)) and howardite-eucrite-diogenites (−0.241 ± 0.017‰ (2σ)) indicate that they derived from the same oxygen isotope reservoir, but petrological evidence, in particular the distinctly lower Fe/Mn ratios and the larger lithological diversity in mesosiderites, indicates that they formed within different parent bodies. This suggests that mesosiderites and howardite-eucrite-diogenites originated in distinct parent bodies that accreted in the 4 Vesta source region but experienced different geologic evolution in terms of crustal differentiation and impact history, which were more complex and catastrophic in the mesosiderite parent body.

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