Infoscience

Journal article

A new Martian meteorite from Morocco: the nakhlite North West Africa 817

North West Africa (NWA 817) is a single stone of 104 g found in the Sahara (Morocco) by meteorite hunters in November 2000. The meteorite is an unbrecciated, medium-grained olivine-bearing clinopyroxenite with a cumulate texture. It consists of zoned euhedral subcalcic augite (Wo(42)En(38-22)F(20-36)), olivine spanning a wide range of compositions (from Fa(56) in the core to Fa(86)) With rare magmatic inclusions and an intercumulus mesostasis made of Fe-bearing albitic plagioclase, Si-rich glass, Ti-magnetite with unusual skeletal growth morphologies containing ilmenite exsolutions, acicular pyroxene, olivine and cristobalite. Trace minerals are sulfide droplets and Cl-apatite. Mineral modes (in vol%) are augite 69%, olivine 10%, mesostasis 20% and Fe-Ti oxides 1%. Pervasive alteration produced a reddish clay mineral (hydrous ferrous silicate) in both olivine crystals and the mesostasis. The major element composition of NWA 817 is very similar to that of the other nakhlites: high FeO, MgO and CaO concentrations reflect the abundance of cumulus augite and olivine. Key element ratios such as FeO/MnO (=37), Na/Al (=0.40), K/La (= 449), Ga/Al (= 3.9 X 10(-4)) and oxygen isotopic composition (Delta(17)O = +0.37parts per thousand) are clear evidence for a Martian origin. The incompatible trace element pattern as in Nakhla displays a strong light rare earth element enrichment relative to chondrite (La-n/Yb-n = 4.89). However, when compared to the other nakhlites, NWA 817 has specific features: (1) a higher modal proportion of mesostasis; (2) quench textures of Ti-magnetite and Fe-rich clinopyroxene; (3) more Mg-rich olivine core compositions whereas the augite core composition is identical for all nakhlites; (4) a stronger Fe enrichment toward crystal rims of these cumulus minerals. The intercumulus minerals (Ti-magnetite with skeletal growth morphology, acicular chains of clinopyroxene and Fe3+-rich feldspar) indicate rapid crystallization in response to a high degree of undercooling at the end of the sample story. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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