Petrology and chemistry of the new shergottite Dar al Gani 476


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Abstract— In 1998, Dar al Gani (DaG) 476 was found in the Libyan desert. The meteorite is classified as a basaltic shergottite and is only the 13th martian meteorite known to date. It has a porphyritic texture consisting of a fine-grained groundmass and larger olivines. The groundmass consists of pyroxene and feldspathic glass. Minor phases are oxides and sulfides as well as phosphates. The presence of olivine, orthopyroxene, and chromite is a feature that DaG 476 has in common with lithology A of Elephant Moraine (EET) A79001. However, in DaG 476, these phases appear to be early phenocrysts rather than xenocrysts. Shock features, such as twinning, mosaicism, and impact-melt pockets, are ubiquitous. Terrestrial weathering was severe and led to formation of carbonate veins following grain boundaries and cracks.

With a molar MgO/(MgO + FeO) of 0.68, DaG 476 is the most magnesian member among the basaltic shergottites. Compositions of augite and pigeonite and some of the bulk element concentrations are intermediate between those of lherzolitic and basaltic shergottites. However, major elements, such as Fe and Ti, as well as LREE concentrations are considerably lower than in other shergottites.

Noble gas concentrations are low and dominated by the mantle component previously found in Chassigny. A component, similar to that representing martian atmosphere, is virtually absent. The ejection age of 1.35 ± 0.10 Ma is older than that of EETA79001 and could possibly mark a distinct ejection.

Dar al Gani 476 is classified as a basaltic shergottite based on its mineralogy. It has a fine-grained groundmass consisting of clinopyroxene, pigeonite and augite, feldspathic glass and chromite, Ti-chromite, ilmenite, sulfides, and whitlockite. Isolated olivine and single chromite grains occur in the groundmass. Orthopyroxene forms cores of some pigeonite grains. Shock-features, such as shock-twinning, mosaicism, cracks, and impact-melt pockets, are abundant. Severe weathering in the Sahara led to significant formation of carbonate veins crosscutting the entire meteorite.

Dar al Gani 476 is distinct from other known shergottites. Chemically, it is the most magnesian member among known basaltic shergottites and intermediate in composition for most trace and major elements between Iherzolitic and basaltic shergottites. Unique are the very low bulk REE element abundances. The CI-normalized abundances of LREEs are even lower than those of Iherzolitic shergottites. The overall abundance pattern, however, is similar to that of QUE 94201.

Textural evidence indicates that orthopyroxene, as well as olivine and chromite, crystallized as phenocrysts from a magma similar in composition to that of bulk DaG 476. Whether such a magma composition can be a shergottite parent melt or was formed by impact melting needs to be explored further. At this time, it cannot entirely be ruled out that these phases represent relics of disaggregated xenoliths that were incorporated and partially assimilated by a basaltic melt, although the texture does not support this possibility.

Trapped noble gas concentrations are low and dominated by a Chassigny-like mantle component. Virtually no martian atmosphere was trapped in DaG 476 whole-rock splits. The exposure age of 1.26 ± 0.09 Ma is younger than that of most shergottites and closer to that of EETA79001. The ejection age of 1.35 ± 0.1 Ma could mark another distinct impact event.