Shock Compaction Heating and Collisional Processes in the Production of Type 3 Ordinary Chondrites: Lessons from the (nearly) Unique L3 Chondrite Melt Breccia Northwest Africa 8709

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Meteoritics & Planetary Science

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Northwest Africa (NWA) 8709 is a rare example of a type 3 ordinary chondrite melt breccia and provides critical information for the shock compaction histories of chondrites. An L3 protolith for NWA 8709 is inferred on the basis of oxygen isotope composition, elemental composition, diverse mineral chemistry, and overall texture. NWA 8709 is among the most strongly shocked type 3 chondrites known, and experienced complete melting of the matrix and partial melting of chondrules. Unmelted phases underwent FeO reduction and partial homogenization, with reduction possibly occurring by reaction of olivine and low‐Ca pyroxene with an S‐bearing gas that was produced by vaporization. Chondrules and metal grains became foliated by uniaxial compaction, and during compression, chondrules and fragments became attached to form larger clumps. This process, and possibly also melt incorporation into chondrules to cause “inflation,” may have contributed to anomalously large chondrule sizes in NWA 8709. The melt breccia character is attributed to strong shock affecting a porous precursor. Data‐model comparisons suggest that a precursor with 23% porosity that was impacted by a 3 km/s projectile could have produced the meteorite. The rarity of other type 3 ordinary chondrite melt breccias implies that the immediate precursors to such chondrites were lower in porosity than the NWA 8709 precursor, or experienced weaker shocks. Altogether, the data imply a predominantly “quiet” dynamical environment to form most type 3 ordinary chondrites, with compaction occurring in a series of relatively weak shock events.


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