The igneous crystallization history of an ancient Martiamneteorite from rare earth element microdistributions

Meenakshi Wadhwa, Ghislaine Crozaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Rare earth element (REE) and other selected trace and minor element concentrations were measured in individual grains of orthopyroxene, feldspathic glass (of plagioclase composition) and merrillite of the ALH 84001 Martian meteorite. Unlike in other Martian meteorites, phosphate is not the main REE carrier in ALH 84001. The REE pattern of ALH 84001 bulk rock is dependent on the modal abundances of three REE-bearing phases, namely, orthopyroxene, which contains most of the heavy rare earth elements (HREEs); feldspathic glass, which dominates the Eu abundances; and merrillite, which contains the majority of the light rare earth elements (LREEs). Variations in the REE abundances previously observed in different splits of ALH 84001 can easily be explained in terms of small variations in the modal abundances of these three minerals without the need to invoke extensive redistribution of LREEs. At least some orthopyroxenes (i.e., those away from contacts with feldspathic glass) in ALH 84001 appear to have preserved their original REE zonation from igneous fractionation. An estimate of the ALH 84001 parent magma composition from that of the unaltered orthopyroxene "core" (i.e., zoned orthopyroxene with the lowest REE abundances) indicates that it is LREE depleted. This implies that the Martian mantle was already partly depleted within 100 Ma of solar system formation, which is consistent with rapid accretion and differentiation of Mars. Although equilibration and exchange of REEs between phases (in particular, transport of LREEs into the interstitial phases, feldspathic glass and merrillite) cannot be ruled out, our data suggest that the LREE enrichment in melts "in equilibrium" with these interstitial phases is most likely the result of late-stage infiltration of the cumulate pile by a LREE-enriched melt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-692
Number of pages8
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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