Weathering of ordinary chondrites from the Atacama Desert, Chile, by Mössbauer spectroscopy and synchrotron radiation X-ray diffraction


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Some terrestrial areas have climatic and geomorphologic features that favor the preservation, and therefore, accumulation of meteorites. The Atacama Desert in Chile is among the most important of such areas, known as DCA. This desert is the driest on Earth, one of the most arid, uninhabitable localities with semiarid, arid, and hyper-arid conditions. The meteorites studied here were collected from within the DCA of San Juan and Pampa de Mejillones, located, respectively, in the Central Depression and the Coastal Range of the Atacama Desert. 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy was used for quantitative analysis of the degree of weathering of the meteorites, through the determination of the proportions of the various Fe-bearing phases and in particular the amount of oxidized iron in terrestrial alteration products. The abundance of ferric ions in weathered chondrites can be related to specific precursor compositions and to the level of terrestrial weathering. The aim of the study was the identification, quantification, and differentiation of the weathering products in the ordinary chondrites found in the San Juan and the Pampa de Mejillones areas of the Atacama Desert. The 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy study was complemented by synchrotron radiation X-ray diffraction and magnetic susceptibility measurements. The results allow a clear differentiation of the rate of weathering in meteorite samples collected from the San Juan versus the Pampa de Mejillones areas of the Atacama Desert.