Eight saponite-rich micrometeorites with very similar mineralogy were found from the recent surface snow in Antarctica. They might have come to Earth as a larger meteoroid and broke up into pieces on Earth, because they were recovered from the same layer and the same location of the snow. Synchrotron X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis indicates that saponite, Mg-Fe carbonate, and pyrrhotite are major phases and serpentine, magnetite, and pentlandite are minor phases. Anhydrous silicates are entirely absent from all micrometeorites, suggesting that their parental object has undergone heavy aqueous alteration. Saponite/serpentine ratios are higher than in the Orgueil CI chondrite and are similar to the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) observation indicates that serpentine occupies core regions of fine-grained saponite, pyrrhotite has a low-Ni concentration, and Mg-Fe carbonate shows unique concentric ring structures and has a mean molar Mg/(Mg + Fe) ratio of 0.7. Comparison of the mineralogy to hydrated chondrites and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) suggests that the micrometeorites are most similar to the carbonate-poor lithology of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite and some hydrous IDPs, but they show a carbonate mineralogy dissimilar to any primitive chondritic materials. Therefore, they are a new variant of saponite-rich micrometeorite extracted from a primitive hydrous asteroid and recently accreted to Antarctica.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Space and Planetary Science