AbstractsEarth & Environmental Science

On the aggregation, differentiation and devolatilisation of volatile-rich asteroids

by Andrew Danial Langendam

Institution: Monash University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Protoplanet; Planetesimal; Ureilite; Melting experiments; Geochemical modelling; Habitability; Asteroid; Planet formation; Ice; Snowline; Volatiles; Fluid migration; Core formation; Accretion; R chondrite; Karoonda
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2124508
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1278720


The development of chemically distinct parent bodies from the protoplanetary disk is controlled by the composition of their formation regions. After accretion the chemistry of planetesimals can be greatly affected by the presence of phases that can alter their oxidation state. The protoplanetary disk was stratified with respect to the volatility of elements such that in the hotter inner solar system, planets and planetesimals are composed of refractory elements, whereas those that formed further out are progressively richer in volatile elements. At about 2.6-2.8 AU, temperatures in the early solar nebula were cool enough the H₂O ice was stable, and this is known as the snowline transition. Planetesimals that formed within or beyond the snowline transition accreted with higher proportions of H₂O ice, which was later capable of driving oxidation of the silicate mineralogy through serpentinisation reactions. Thus, the planets and planetesimals that formed further from the Sun are more oxidised and more volatile rich. This thesis investigates the effect of redox processes during the aggregation, differentiation and early cooling of planetesimals. The aggregation of planetesimals within the snowline transition has been investigated by assessing the amalgamation history of the R chondrites breccias, a group of highly oxidised and brecciated chondrites that have undergone metamorphism. Chemical differences in orthopyroxene between clasts within these breccias shows that several bodies formed in close proximity to one another, but with different volatile contents. Some clasts show that they had been altered by serpentinisation-deserpentinisation reactions, whereas other clasts were equilibrated to the metal-olivine-pyroxene buffer. Since there was no distinct trend in petrographic type between these populations, this oxidation is likely to have occurred before the disruptive impact and reamalgamation of the R chondrite parent body. The R chondrite parent body is thus interpreted to be composed of an amalgamation of three or more distinct volatile-rich asteroids. Melting within planetesimals that formed near the snowline transition was investigated by performing experiments on the Karoonda CK chondrite. These experiments showed that a body that has been oxidised through reaction with water ice will produce a dense Fe-Ni-S-O melt at temperatures above 950°C. This melt wets silicate minerals, allowing it to develop an interconnected network and migrate rapidly towards a core via percolative flow. This wetting behaviour is only inhibited once large proportions of silicate melt has developed (above 1100°C). Hence, oxidised bodies are able to form cores at lower temperatures and more efficiently than their inner solar system counterparts, as metal melts in the refractory bodies are unable to wet silicates, and require high silicate melt fractions to migrate effectively. Although the primitive achondrites known as ureilites are not highly oxidised, they do contain a significant fraction of carbon, implying that their parent body… Advisors/Committee Members: Principal Supervisor: Andrew G. Tomkins, Supervisor: Roberto F. Weinberg.