Affordable Access

Discovery of Hg–Cu-bearing metal-sulfide assemblages in a primitive H-3 chondrite: Towards a new insight in early solar system processes

Publication Date
  • Earth Science
  • Geography


We report here the discovery of a novel meteoritic paragenesis consisting of sub-micrometric HgS, Cu sulfides, and Hg metal, associated with polycrystalline fine-grained native Cu in opaque mineral aggregates heterogeneously distributed in the matrix of the H-3 Tieschitz unequilibrated ordinary chondrite (UOC). The systematic association of Hg with Cu in Tieschitz chondrite provides a unique opportunity to place robust constraints on the origin of these assemblages either by condensation and sulfidation in a local nebular reservoir of non-solar composition, followed by gentle and fast accretion, or by sublimation of Hg from the hot interior of the asteroid and recondensation in its cold outer regions. The sulfide phase relations support low temperature conditions (<300 °C), implying that subsequent to accretion indigenous hydrothermal processing, oxidation/sulfidation, transportation, or shock-induced thermal processing of the assemblage on the parent body earlier proposed are very unlikely and unrealistic. Origin of HgS by sublimation of Hg from the hotter asteroid interior and precipitation as cinnabar in the colder surface regions is discrepant with our findings and can be ruled out because cinnabar occurs only in Tieschitz matrix in alternating rhythmic intergrowth with Cu-sulfide. The sublimation scenario calls for co-evaporation of both the highly volatile Hg as HgS and Hg metal and the moderately volatile Cu both as Cu metal, or their sulfides and deposition as sulfides in alternating episodes. Our findings provide further ample evidence refuting the repeated claim of formation of native copper in chondritic metal by shock-induced impact melting. Cold accretion is the only reasonable possibility to preserve the delicate accretionary intergrowth textures, the polycrystallinity of FeNi-metal, native Cu, Hg–Cu-sulfides and native Hg globules and the high Hg concentration retained in this meteorite. Our findings strongly suggest that Tieschitz resided near the cold surface of the parent asteroid.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.