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A composite Fe,Ni-FeS and enstatite-forsterite-diopside-glass vitrophyre clast in the Larkman Nunatak 04316 aubrite: Origin by pyroclastic volcanism

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

  • Klaus Keil
  • Tim McCoy
  • Lionel Wilson
  • Jean-Alix Barrat
  • Doug Rumble
  • Matthias Meier
  • Rainer Wieler
  • Gary Huss
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Meteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number11
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)1719-1741
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We studied the mineralogy, petrology, and bulk, trace element, oxygen, and noble gas isotopic compositions of a composite clast approximately 20 mm in diameter discovered in the Larkman Nunatak (LAR) 04316 aubrite regolith breccia. The clast consists of two lithologies: One is a quench-textured intergrowth of troilite with spottily zoned metallic Fe,Ni which forms a dendritic or cellular structure. The approximately 30 μm spacings between the Fe,Ni arms yield an estimated cooling rate of this lithology of approximately 25–30 °C s−1. The other is a quench-textured enstatite-forsterite-diopside-glass vitrophyre lithology. The composition of the clast suggests that it formed at an exceptionally high degree of partial melting, perhaps approaching complete melting, and that the melts from which the composite clast crystallized were quenched from a temperature of approximately 1380–1400 °C at a rate of approximately 25–30 °C s−1. The association of the two lithologies in a composite clast allows, for the first time, an estimation of the cooling rate of a silicate vitrophyre in an aubrite of approximately 25–30 °C s−1. While we cannot completely rule out an impact origin of the clast, we present what we consider is very strong evidence that this composite clast is one of the elusive pyroclasts produced during pyroclastic volcanism on the aubrite parent body (Wilson and Keil 1991). We further suggest that this clast was not ejected into space but retained on the aubrite parent body by virtue of the relatively large size of the clast of approximately 20 mm. Our modeling, taking into account the size of the clast, suggests that the aubrite parent body must have been between approximately 40 and 100 km in diameter, and that the melt from which the clast crystallized must have contained an estimated maximum range of allowed volatile mass fractions between approximately 500 and approximately 4500 ppm.