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Early silicic magmatism on a differentiated asteroid

Abstract

Unlike the other terrestrial planets, Earth has a substantial silica-rich continental crust with a bulk andesitic composition. A small number of meteorites with andesitic bulk compositions have been identified that are thought to be the products of partial melting of chondritic protoliths, a mode of petrogenesis distinct from that of Earth’s continental crust. Here we show, using geochemical analyses, that unlike other known andesitic meteorites, Erg Chech 002 has strongly fractionated and low abundances of the highly siderophile elements and mineralogy consistent with origin from a melt. The meteorite’s bulk composition, which is similar to terrestrial andesites, cannot be explained by partial melting of basaltic lithologies and instead requires a metal-free chondritic source. We argue that Erg Chech 002 probably formed by ~15–25% melting of the mantle of an alkali-undepleted differentiated asteroid. Our findings suggest that extensive silicate differentiation after metal–silicate equilibration of chondritic parent bodies was already occurring within the first 2.25 million years of Solar System history and that andesitic crust formation does not necessarily require plate tectonics.

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Fig. 1: Thin-section map and mineral chemistry of EC 002.
Fig. 2: Bulk rock lithophile element chemistry of EC 002 and similar achondrite.
Fig. 3: Bulk rock CI-chondrite-normalized HSE abundances of achondrite meteorites and the terrestrial UCC.

Data availability

All data in this study are available as online supplementary tables included with the manuscript. Supplementary Data 1 and 2 are also available on the EarthChem database (submission ID 2326).

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the NASA Emerging Worlds programme award (NNX16AR95G) to J.M.D.D.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

The project was conceived by J.M.D.D. and K.G.G.-V. K.G.G.-V. acquired the piece of EC 002 used in this study. Bulk rock analyses were performed by J.M.D.D. EPMA analyses were supervised by A.U. Petrography and LA-ICP-MS analyses were performed by R.W.N. The initial manuscript was written by R.W.N. and edited by other co-authors. Funding was acquired by J.M.D.D.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert W. Nicklas.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information

Nature Geoscience thanks Max Collinet, Maxwell Thiemens and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editor: Tamara Goldin, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–5 and Figs. 1–7.

Supplementary Data 1

All in situ major-element data.

Supplementary Data 2

All in situ trace-element data.

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Nicklas, R.W., Day, J.M.D., Gardner-Vandy, K.G. et al. Early silicic magmatism on a differentiated asteroid. Nat. Geosci. 15, 696–699 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-00996-1

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