Significance of the cosmogenic argon correction in deciphering the 40Ar/39Ar ages of the Nakhlite (Martian) meteorites

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Benjamin E Cohen1, William Cassata2, Darren F Mark1, Tim Tomkinson1, Martin R. Lee3 and Caroline L Smith4, (1)Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center at the University of Glasgow, East Kilbride, United Kingdom, (2)Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States, (3)The University of Glasgow, School of Geographical and Earth Science, Glasgow, United Kingdom, (4)Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
All meteorites contain variable amounts of cosmogenic 38Ar and 36Ar produced during extraterrestrial exposure, and in order to calculate reliable 40Ar/39Ar ages this cosmogenic Ar must be removed from the total Ar budget. The amount of cosmogenic Ar has usually been calculated from the step-wise 38Ar/36Ar, minimum 36Ar/37Ar, or average 38Arcosmogenic/37Ar from the irradiated meteorite fragment. However, if Cl is present in the meteorite, then these values will be disturbed by Ar produced during laboratory neutron irradiation of Cl. Chlorine is likely to be a particular issue for the Nakhlite group of Martian meteorites, which can contain over 1000 ppm Cl [1].


An alternative method for the cosmogenic Ar correction uses the meteorite’s exposure age as calculated from an un-irradiated fragment and step-wise production rates based on the measured Ca/K [2]. This calculation is independent of the Cl concentration. We applied this correction method to seven Nakhlites, analyzed in duplicate or triplicate. Selected samples were analyzed at both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SUERC to ensure inter-laboratory reproducibility. We find that the cosmogenic argon correction of [2] has a significant influence on the ages calculated for individual steps, particularly for those at lower temperatures (i.e., differences of several tens of million years for some steps). The lower-temperature steps are more influenced by the alternate cosmogenic correction method of [2], as these analyses yielded higher concentrations of Cl-derived 38Ar. As a result, the Nakhlite data corrected using [2] yields step-heating spectra that are flat or nearly so across >70% of the release spectra (in contrast to downward-stepping spectra often reported for Nakhlite samples), allowing for the calculation of precise emplacement ages for these meteorites.

[1] Cartwright J. A. et al. (2013) GCA, 105, 255-293.

[2] Cassata W. S., and Borg L. E. (2015) 46th LPSC, Abstract #2742.