Volatile compounds in shergottite and nakhlite meteorites



Abstract— Vacuum pyrolysis and quadrupole mass spectrometry were used to measure evolved-gas profiles and total concentrations of H2O, CO2, CO, SO2, S2, H2S, HCl, Cl, and hydrocarbons in both exterior and interior samples of shergottites (ALHA77005, EETA79001, and Shergotty), a nakhlite (Nakhla), and eucrites (ALHA81001, EETA79004, and Pasamonte). Eucrites were analyzed as control samples to monitor effects of terrestrial weathering and contamination, relative to properties sought for the shergottite-nakhlite parent body. In contrast with eucrites, shergottites and Nakhla contain large proportions of their sulfur as oxidized sulfur compounds. Sulfate occurs in all shergottite and Nakhla samples and carbonate was confirmed in EETA79001 and Nakhla. Carbonate and sulfate abundances are inversely correlated but total chlorine abundance varies directly with fractional sulfate abundance. Most of the volatile compounds seem to be anhydrous, based on low bulk water contents in the meteorites (<0.1% H2O), although Nakhla might contain significant water that is chemically associated with chlorine. Traces of saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons in some samples are most likely terrestrial contaminants. The indigenous volatile compounds indicate that the shergottite-nakhlite parent body was highly oxidizing and supported aqueous geochemistry during at least part of its history.