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Terrestrial weathering of ordinary chondrites in nature and continuing during laboratory storage and processing: Review and implications for Hayabusa sample integrity


  • Michael A. VELBEL

    1. Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, 288 Farm Lane, Room 206 Natural Sciences Building, East Lansing, Michigan 48824–1115, USA
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Abstract– The Hayabusa mission recently returned the first samples from an ordinary chondrite (OC) parent body. Olivine, low-Ca pyroxene, and kamacite compositions fall within the known ranges of minerals from LL4 to LL6 chondrites. Hayabusa samples are being processed and stored in a pure N2 atmosphere. However, during recovery, prior to receiving, and during preliminary examination, some Hayabusa samples were briefly exposed to terrestrial atmosphere. Some of the minerals already identified in the Hayabusa samples (olivine, sulfides) are known to be among the most vulnerable to weathering reactions in moist, oxidizing terrestrial environments. Oxidation of Fe in metal, sulfides, and ferrous silicates is ubiquitous in naturally weathered OC finds, in samples of falls subjected to even a few decades of weathering before recovery, and in OC falls recovered and curated promptly after recovery. All prerecovery oxidation, hydrolysis, hydration, and product-forming phenomena documented to affect OC finds have been documented to continue in OC samples in curatorial and laboratory settings, producing mineralogical and textural effects at scales easily discernable by electron microscopy, on timescales of decades. Hayabusa samples will be exposed to similar terrestrial conditions at times throughout sample processing, allocation, and examination. Maximizing the science yield from these important samples requires thorough understanding of how LL chondrite minerals like those in the Hayabusa samples react with terrestrial moisture and oxidants in support of proper planning for maintaining Hayabusa sample integrity after allocation, and for proper anticipation of the effects of inevitable exposure to Earth’s atmosphere during storage and examination in terrestrial analytical laboratories.