The primitive achondrites provide a window into the initial melting of asteroids in the early solar system. The brachinites are olivine-dominated meteorites with a recrystallized texture that we and others interpret as evidence of partial melting and melt removal on the brachinite parent body. We present a petrologic, thermodynamic and experimental study of the brachinites to evaluate the conditions under which they formed and test our hypothesis that the precursor material to the brachinites was FeO-rich compared to the precursors of other primitive achondrites. Petrologic analysis of six brachinites (Brachina, Allan Hills (ALH) 84025, Hughes 026, Elephant Moraine (EET) 99402, Northwest Africa (NWA) 3151, and NWA 4969) and one brachinite-like achondrite (NWA 5400) shows that they are meteorites with recrystallized texture that are enriched in olivine (≥80vol.%) and depleted in other minerals with respect to a chondritic mineralogy. Silicates in the brachinites are FeO-rich (Fa32-36). Brachinite-like achondrite Northwest Africa 5400 is similar in mineralogy and texture to the brachinites but with a slightly lower FeO-content (Fa30). Thermodynamic calculations yield equilibration temperatures above the Fe,Ni-FeS cotectic temperature (~950°C) for all meteorites studied here and temperatures above the silicate eutectic (~1050°C) for all but two. Brachina formed at an fO2 of ~IW, and the other brachinites and NWA 5400 formed at ~IW-1. All the meteorites show great evidence of formation by partial melting having approximately chondritic to depleted chondritic mineralogies, equilibrated mineral compositions, and recrystallized textures, and having reached temperatures above that required for melt generation. In an attempt to simulate the formation of the brachinite meteorites, we performed one-atmosphere, gas-mixing partial melting experiments of R4 chondrite LaPaz Ice Field 03639. Experiments at 1250°C and an oxygen fugacity of IW-1 produce residual phases that are within the mineralogy and mineral compositions of the brachinites. These experiments provide further evidence for the formation of brachinites as a result of partial melting of a chondritic precursor similar in mineralogy and mineral compositions to the R chondrites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology