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Department of Earth Sciences

Research Staff

Publication details for Dr Katherine Dobson

Tomkinson, T., Lee, M.R., Mark, D.F., Dobson, K.J. & Franchi, I.A. (2015). The Northwest Africa (NWA) 5790 meteorite: A mesostasis-rich nakhlite with little or no Martian aqueous alteration. Meteoritics & Planetary Science 50(2): 287-304.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Northwest Africa (NWA) 5790 is the most recently discovered member of the nakhlite group. Its mineralogy differs from the other nakhlites with a high abundance mesostasis (38.1 ± 3.6 vol%) and scarcity of olivine (4.0 ± 2.2 vol%). Furthermore, zoning of augite phenocrysts, and other petrographic and chemical characteristics suggest that NWA 5790 samples the chilled margin of its parent lava flow/sill. NWA 5790 contains calcite and rare clay minerals that are evidence for its exposure to liquid water. The calcite forms a cement to coatings of dust on the outer surface of the find and extends into the interior of the meteorite within veins. The presence of microbial remains within the coating confirms that the dust and its carbonate cement are terrestrial in origin, consistent with the carbon and oxygen isotope composition of the calcite. The clay minerals are finely crystalline and comprise ~0.003 vol% of the meteorite. δD values of the clay minerals range from −212 ± 109‰ to −96 ± 132‰, and cannot be used to distinguish between a terrestrial or Martian origin. As petrographic results are also not definitive, we conclude that secondary minerals produced by Martian groundwaters are at best very rare within NWA 5790. The meteorite has therefore sampled a region of the lava flow/sill with little or no exposure to the aqueous solutions that altered other nakhlites. This isolation could relate to the scarcity of olivine in NWA 5790 because dissolution of olivine in other nakhlites by Martian groundwaters enhanced their porosity and permeability, and provided solutes for secondary minerals.