The quest for regolithic howardites. Part 1: Two trends uncovered using noble gases

J. A. Cartwright, U. Ott, D. W. Mittlefehldt, J. S. Herrin, S. Herrmann, S. A. Mertzman, K. R. Mertzman, Z. X. Peng, J. E. Quinn

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We report noble gas data (helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr) and xenon (Xe)), nominal gas retention ages (K-Ar, U-Th-He) and cosmic ray exposure (CRE) ages for the ten howardites EET 83376, EET 99408, LEW 85313, MET 00423, MET 96500, PCA 02066, PRA 04401, QUE 94200, QUE 97002, and SCO 06040, in research to better understand the regolith of the HED parent body - Vesta - through a combined petrological, compositional and noble gas study. Our main aim is to determine which howardites are truly regolithic - as defined by the presence of solar noble gas components (e.g. solar wind (SW), fractionated solar wind (FSW)) and/or by the presence of planetary components (e.g. Q, HL) associated with foreign clasts of carbonaceous chondrite material within the breccias. Of our ten howardites, four (LEW 85313, MET 00423, PRA 04401 and SCO 06040) show evidence for a regolithic origin, with noble gas ratios indicating the presence of trapped components. Howardites PRA 04401 and SCO 06040 contain significant amounts of CM type carbonaceous chondrite material, and these samples are dominated by a planetary component similar to that observed in CM meteorites Murchison and Maribo. Overall, we find evidence for two regolithic groups with different release trends: (1) SW/FSW component dominated howardites (LEW 85313 and MET 00423), where SW/FSW is dominant at low temperature releases, and less pronounced at higher temperatures; (2) Planetary component dominated howardites (PRA 04401 and SCO 06040) that also contain SW/FSW - the planetary component is associated with incorporated carbonaceous chondrite material, and is dominant at the mid-temperature release. The remaining six howardites EET 83376, EET 99408, MET 96500, PCA 02066, QUE 94200, and QUE 97002, are dominated by cosmogenic noble gases, and are not considered regolithic. Previous work by Warren et al. (2009) suggested that high siderophile element contents (specifically nickel (Ni)>300μg/g) were a regolith indicator for howardites, in addition to restricted Al2O3 contents (8-9wt.%) representing a eucrite/diogenite mixing ratio of 2:1 as indicative of an ancient well-mixed regolith. These parameters were based on five 'gas-rich' howardites. However, we find no obvious correlation between these parameters and SW/FSW or planetary noble gas content in our howardite samples. We conclude that howardite regolith parameters are not as simple as those defined by Warren et al. (2009), where three of the five howardites used contained foreign CM material, which may have caused a bias in their defined parameters. We conclude that sideophile abundances alone cannot be used to determine the regolithic nature of a sample: noble gas analysis remains a key parameter, where it is important to distinguish between planetary-dominated and SW-dominated regolithic howardites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-421
Number of pages27
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - márc. 5 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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    Cartwright, J. A., Ott, U., Mittlefehldt, D. W., Herrin, J. S., Herrmann, S., Mertzman, S. A., Mertzman, K. R., Peng, Z. X., & Quinn, J. E. (2013). The quest for regolithic howardites. Part 1: Two trends uncovered using noble gases. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 105, 395-421.