Micrometer-scale U–Pb age domains in eucrite zircons, impact re-setting, and the thermal history of the HED parent body

By: , and 



Meteoritic zircons are rare, but some are documented to occur in asteroidal meteorites, including those of the howardite–eucrite–diogenite (HED) achondrite clan (Rubin, A. [1997]. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 32, 231–247). The HEDs are widely considered to originate from the Asteroid 4 Vesta. Vesta and the other large main belt asteroids record an early bombardment history. To explore this record, we describe sub-micrometer distributions of trace elements (U, Th) and 235,238U–207,206Pb ages from four zircons (>7–40 μm ∅) separated from bulk samples of the brecciated eucrite Millbillillie. Ultra-high resolution (∼100 nm) ion microprobe depth profiles reveal different zircon age domains correlative to mineral chemistry and to possible impact scenarios. Our new U–Pb zircon geochronology shows that Vesta’s crust solidified within a few million years of Solar System formation (4561 ± 13 Ma), in good agreement with previous work (e.g. Carlson, R.W., Lugmair, G.W. [2000]. Timescales of planetesimal formation and differentiation based on extinct and extant radioisotopes. In: Canup, R., Righter, K. (Eds.), Origin of the Earth and Moon. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 25–44). Younger zircon age domains (ca. 4530 Ma) also record crustal processes, but these are interpreted to be exogenous because they are well after the effective extinction of 26Al (t1/2 = 0.72 Myr). An origin via impact-resetting was evaluated with a suite of analytical impact models. Output shows that if a single impactor was responsible for the ca. 4530 Ma zircon ages, it had to have been ⩾10 km in diameter and at high enough velocity (>5 km s−1) to account for the thermal field required to re-set U–Pb ages. Such an impact would have penetrated at least 10 km into Vesta’s crust. Later events at ca. 4200 Ma are documented in HED apatite 235,238U–207,206Pb ages (Zhou, Q. et al. [2011]. Early basaltic volcanism and Late Heavy Bombardment on Vesta: U–Pb ages of small zircons and phosphates in eucrites. Lunar Planet. Sci. 42. Abstract #2575) and 40–39Ar age spectra (Bogard, D.D. [2011]. Chem. Erde 71, 207–226). Yet younger ages, including those coincident with the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB; ca. 3900 Ma), are absent from Millbillillie zircon. This is attributable to primordial changes to the velocity distributions of impactors in the asteroid belt, and differences in mineral closure temperatures (Tc zircon ≫ apatite).

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Micrometer-scale U–Pb age domains in eucrite zircons, impact re-setting, and the thermal history of the HED parent body
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.08.025
Volume 245
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 367
Last page 378
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N