Found July 1979
37° 40′ S., 61° 39′ W. This relatively fresh, 16.55 kg, shield-shaped, regmaglypted meteorite is by far the largest of the angrites found so far. The mass was found in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina by a farm worker who struck it with a plow. Thinking he had unearthed an Indian artifact, possibly an old mortar, he gave it to the landowner who set it by his house for the next ~20 years. Not until 1998, after reading an article on meteorites, did the owner seek to have the stone analyzed. In September 2000, Dr. G. Kurat of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria made the determination that it was an angrite.

D’Orbigny is an unusual achondrite that shows no evidence of brecciation, shock metamorphism, or significant thermal metamorphism, and some believe that it might not have an igneous origin. It consists predominantly of Ca-bearing olivine and anorthite, which compose an intergrowth of plates and networks (Kurat et al., 2004). The other major constituent is Ti–Al-augite, which likely formed later than the olivine–anorthite intergrowths. A late oxidizing event produced strongly zoned grains of the clinopyroxene Al,Ti–diopside-hedenbergite, previously known as fassaite, which now fill most of the intergranular spaces. Large (up to 1 cm) clear to milky, green to greenish-white, magnesian olivine megacrysts and polycrystalline olivinites represent one of the earliest phases of the host rock. Also representing very early constituents, Cr-bearing Al-spinel and Fe-bearing spinel occur within some olivine and anorthite grains. Minor kirschsteinite, ulvöspinel, and troilite (and other sulfides) are present, along with rare awaruite, Ca silico-apatite (a late-stage crystallization phase; Mikouchi et al, 2010, 2015), and an unidentified Fe–Al–Ti silicate. Rare, cm-sized, Mg- and Cr-rich olivine and spinel xenocrysts with granoblastic textures have been identified, similar to those found in greater abundance in other angrites (except Sah 99555). The xenocrysts are indicative of a rapid ascension of magma.

D’Orbigny has a heterogeneous composition consisting of alternating layers of a dense, coarse-grained texture, and a porous texture containing abundant round vugs or hollow shells up to 2.5 cm, along with plates and druses composed primarily of augite (diopside-hedenbergite) crystals and some anorthite crystals. Formation of these vesicles is consistent with bubble growth involving significant CO and CO2 concentrations of 10–20 ppm (up to 25 ppm C) in a magma as it ascended within a dike, undergoing decompression and coalescence of smaller bubbles, eventually solidifying near the surface (McCoy et al., 2003, 2006). It was ascertained that the druse pyroxenes formed under oxidizing conditions (near the QFM buffer), then underwent rapid cooling from ~1000°C, perhaps as a result of the dissipation of a hot vapor (Abdu et al., 2009).

Conversely, instead of formation of the vesicles through an igneous process, it was proposed by Kurat et al. (2002) that they were originally solid spheres composed of one of the earliest and most reduced phases, possibly CaS, which was covered by anorthite-olivine rims and plates. The cores were subsequently lost through an oxidizing Fe–Mn–Cr metasomatism process incorporating water, with the calcium being utilized in the formation of the augite, kirschsteinite, and diopside-hedenbergite. This druse formation scenario is consistent with a pneumatolytic formation process. Some of the vugs are now filled with glass.

Ubiquitous primary glasses present in D’Orbigny have unfractionated chondritic relative abundances of refractory lithophiles, indicating a possible origin through bulk rock melting, but excluding an origin as residues of a partial melt. Solar-like trapped noble gases present in these glasses are thought to have originated from primordial reservoirs of solar wind gases which accumulated very early in Solar System history. These noble gases were subsequently implanted within the glasses by way of an ascending deep magma (Busemann et al., 2006). The presence of vesicles in Sahara 99555 and D’Orbigny angrites attests to this rapid ascent and cooling of volatile-enriched magma. Schiller et al. (2010) argue that angrites experienced such volatile depletion associated with accretion within a short time after CAI formation; timing of angrite volatile depletion was ~1 m.y. before volatile depletion occurred on the HED parent body. Two further episodes of volatile depletion on the angrite parent body are considered likely impact-related events. Formation of the glasses was contemporaneous with formation of the bulk of D’Orbigny.

An alternative formation mechanism for the glass phase has been proposed by Varela et al. (2003). Based upon the finding that some elemental abundances, such as FeO and MnO, as well as some elemental ratios, such as CaO/TiO and FeO/MnO, are similar to those in CI chondrites, and because the glass shares many characteristics with glass inclusions in olivine grains from carbonaceous chondrites (e.g., the presence of volatile elements such as C and N, thought to have been incorporated as refractory material, which were subsequently volatilized through oxidation reactions and the depletion of volatile lithophile elements), they proposed that the glass crystals grew from a vapor phase (conceivably in the solar nebula) upon moist surfaces within interstitial spaces during olivine formation. Later, an oxidizing metasomatic alteration event that was intrinsically chondritic affected the glass and bulk rock.

Nitrogen in D’Orbigny is scarce and exhibits an enrichment in δ15N (Abernethy et al., 2013). Futhermore, D’Orbigny has a low abundance of C that is also enriched in the heavier isotopes (δ18O) compared to other angrites, demonstrating a preferential loss of lighter isotopes during degassing. This enrichment in δ18O is unique from all other angrites, but similar to CI/CM chondrites. Although they could not determine a specific correlation between the C and N based either on their abundances or isotopic compositions, it was demonstrated that much of the C and N was likely incorporated as atoms within the silicate lattice, probably attained through metasomatic processes involving sulfur-rich fluids. It was further hypothesized that the atomic C originated from graphite, itself being an earlier product of a carbonate reduction process, or that it was a result of dissociation of CO and CO2. In a similar manner, it was shown that atomic N was likely dissociated at high temperatures and then became bound within the silicate lattice. There remains a speculation at this point that some of the C and/or N was originally an organic component of a carbonaceous phase similar to that found in CM-type carbonaceous chondrites.

Prior studies have shown that the close textural and compositional trends present in the angrites D’Orbigny, Sahara 99555, Asuka 881371, LEW 87051, NWA 1670, and possibly NWA 1296 provide evidence for their crystallization from a common magma source (see also the CRE age data below). It was suggested that this D’Orbigny group of angrites underwent rapid cooling and crystallization at depths of less than 0.5 m. However, since D’Orbigny contains no solar implanted gases, it could not have been exposed to the surface environment of the parent body. Angra dos Reis, LEW 86010, and NWA 2999 show evidence of a slower cooling history than the angrite grouping above, and they are probably not co-magmatic with them. Furthermore, precise U–Pb ages obtained for these three slowly cooled angrites indicate that they crystallized at least 0.9 m.y. apart, inferring an independent source magma for some or all of them (Amelin, 2007).

The results of CRE age studies based on cosmogenic nuclide data infer a CRE age for D’Orbigny of 12.3 (±0.9) m.y. (Eugster et al., 2002); this age is significantly different from all other angrites studied. Multiple episodes of impact, disruption, and dissemination of the crust can be inferred by the wide range of CRE ages determined for the angrites—<0.2–56 m.y. for thirteen angrites measured to date, possibly representing as many ejection events (Nakashima et al., 2008; Wieler et al., 2016; Nakashima et al., 2018). This range is consistent with a single large parent body enduring multiple impacts over a very long period of time, which would suggest that the parent object resides in a stable orbit (planetary or asteroid belt) permitting continuous sampling over at least the past 56 m.y. Alternatively, Nakashima et al. (2018) consider it plausible that there is currently at least two angrite (daughter) objects occupying distinct orbits: one representing the fine-grained (quenched) angrites with the shorter CRE age range of <0.2–22 m.y., and another representing the coarse-grained (plutonic) angrites with the longer CRE age range of 18–56 m.y. (see diagram below). Cosmic-ray Exposure Ages of Angrites
standby for angrite cre age diagram
Diagram credit: Nakashima et al., MAPS, vol. 53, #5, p. 965 (2018)
‘Noble gases in angrites Northwest Africa 1296, 2999/4931, 4590, and 4801: Evolution history inferred from noble gas signatures’
Trace element data argues for a more complex history for D’Orbigny and most angrites, including a non-igneous formation from a refractory condensate of a chondritic nature. Late phases of D’Orbigny are enriched in moderately volatile elements compared to early phases, and the two phases were formed under very different redox conditions—the early phases grew under highly reducing conditions while the late phases grew under highly oxidizing conditions (Varela et al., 2005). The occurrence within anorthite (with or without olivine) of metal+sulfide arrays having a high Ni content (up to 50%) provides further evidence for a reducing sulfurous environment in the early formation history of D’Orbigny (Varela et al., 2015). Moreover, Hwang et al. (2015) observed FeS–oxide associations hosted by anorthite which indicate an increasing degree of oxidation over time. It is also reported that the highly incompatible elements in all olivine phases are far out of equilibrium (highly enriched) with the parental melt that formed the bulk rock. Curiously, plagioclase, which formed together with the olivine, contains very different abundances of incompatible elements, suggesting that the olivine and plagioclase formed from melts of dissimilar compositions. It is also considered that the solid spheres, which are now enriched in Ca and unfractionated trace elements, may have previoulsy been composed of CaS before undergoing decomposition under increasingly high oxidizing conditions. By this process the previously bound trace elements were converted into a vapor phase and became available for late phase metasomatism and augite formation.

Angrites are extremely ancient meteorites, with some such as D’Orbigny having accretion ages as early as ~0.5 m.y. after the first nebular condensates (CAIs) were formed (Sugiura and Fijiya, 2012). Other angrites such as LEW 86010 and Angra dos Reis attest to the fact that basaltic extrusion on the angrite parent body continued for ~7 m.y. longer. The early thermal history of the angrite parent body is most consistent with a relatively large sized planetesimal of at least 100 km in diameter (Sahijpal et al., 2007). One scenario for the formation of angrites involves an igneous history.

  • From formation models developed by Sahijpal et al. (2007), and from Rb–Sr and Hf–W systematics ascertained by Hans et al. (2009), it can be inferred that the angrite parent body experienced a relatively early onset of accretion, which was associated with volatile loss, within ~2–3 m.y. of Solar System history, a process which then proceeded rapidly to completion over a timeframe of <10 t.y. Crystallization of the angrites proceeded as a two-stage process, beginning with partial melting from a CV-like chondritic source composed of olivine, orthopyroxene, and clinopyroxene at low pressures and elevated oxygen levels. The abundance of H2O in the parental magma as calculated by Suzuki et al. (2012) was ~0.003–0.012 wt%. They inferred an APB mantle H2O content of ~0.001–0.003 wt% (= 10–30 ppm) based on ~30–40% partial melting and fractionation. Heat generated by the decay of short-lived radiogenic isotopes produced metal–silicate melting, differentiation, and basaltic melt extrusion within ~100 t.y. of the onset of accretion. This basalt was slowly cooled to ~650°C, while some of the melt experienced rapid quenching (7–13°C/hr) during eruption onto the surface and/or through a severe impact event.

    Based on a study of highly volatile elements (e.g., H, C, F) in the D’Orbigny and Sahara 99555 angrites, Sarafian et al. (2017) determined that H2O and C are enriched by a factor of one million based on the observed abundances of moderately volatile elements, the latter exhibiting relatively high depletions either inherited from the nebula or associated with planetesimal accretion. They posit that 0.1–1 wt% of volatile-rich carbonaceous chondrite-type material was added to the APB sometime between the time of core formation ~4.5650 ago (consistent with chondritic HSE ratios) and the time of crystallization of the earliest known angrites ~4.5636 b.y. ago. From this amount of carbonaceous chondrite material they infer an APB mantle H2O content of ~230 ppm (= 0.023 wt%).

  • Severe outgassing of volatiles occurred during the impact event(s), possibly hastened by the reduced strength of the gravitational field of the fragmented planetesimal.
  • A magnetic field with a strength ~20% that of present-day Earth was imparted to the angrite PB during its earliest phase of crystallization (as observed from D’Orbigny); this magnetic field may possibly be attributable to an orbital residence very near to the early T-Tauri phase solar field, or to an internal core-dynamo mechanism (Weiss et al., 2008).
  • Based on studies of how kirschsteinite-lamellae profiles relate to cooling rates, as well as results of crystallization experiments, the burial depth of the angrites as they were rapidly crystallized in a thin lava flow is inferred to have been within 1 m of the surface.

Another possible petrogenetic history involves a non-igneous formation:

  • Kurat et al. (2004) and Varela et al. (2005) have conducted extensive studies of D’Orbigny and other angrites in which they utilized mutiple sources of data (e.g., structural, textural, chemical, and redox evidence). They concluded that the angrites are most consistent with a non-igneous origin from refractory solar nebula condensates having chondritic abundances—basically an asteroid-sized version of a CAI—which record unusual circumstances (e.g., changing redox conditions) in the early history of the solar system.

A number of whole-rock and mineral isochrons have been calculated for the angrites. A U–Pb age of 4.5553 (±0.0017) b.y. was previously reported for D’Orbigny (Jotter et al., 2002), an age that is slightly younger than that determined for other angrites using this isotopic system (4.5578 [±0.0005] b.y. for LEW 86010 and AdoR). Other studies of matrix and druse pyroxenes from D’Orbigny have yielded a range of U–Pb ages between 4.549 (±0.002) b.y. and 4.563 (±0.001) b.y (Jagoutz et al., 2003), with a mean age of 4.5639 (±0.0006) b.y. (Zartman et al., 2006). A more precisely determined measurememnt of the Pb–Pb isotopic ages yielded an even older age for D’Orbigny of 4.56442 (±0.00012) b.y. (Amelin, 2007). These ages are consistent with the Pb–Pb age determined for the A-881371 angrite (4.5624 [±0.0016] b.y.). Work to more precisely resolve the initial 238U/235U ratio, previously accepted to be 137.88, has been ongoing. A value of 137.822 (±0.028) was calculated by Brennecka et al. (2010), and even more precise values of 137.777 (±0.013) and 137.794 were calculated by Iizuka et al. (2014) and Goldmann et al. (2015), respectively. When the value of Iizuka et al. (2014) is substituted for the previous value, the U-corrected Pb–Pb ages of D’Orbigny and Sahara 99555 are found to be identical within uncertainties at 4.56337 (±0.00025) b.y. and 4.56353 (±0.00014) b.y., respectively (Tang and Dauphas, 2014 and references therein). However, high precision U-isotopic analyses conducted by Tissot et al. (2016) for six angrites (NWA 4590, NWA 4801, NWA 6291 [= NWA 2999], Angra dos Reis, D’Orbigny, and Sahara 99555) revealed that some heterogeneity exists in the δ238U values among them, which demonstrates that further correction will be needed to obtain precise Pb–Pb ages for these angrites (this dating to follow). Other isotopic chronometers, such as Ar–Ar, Sm–Nd, and Lu–Hf, provide anomalous ages inconsistent with the U-corrected Pb–Pb age, which reflects late secondary processes such as impacts on the angrite parent body (Bouvier et al., 2015).

In addition, Glavin et al. (2004) calculated an absolute Mn–Cr isotopic age for D’Orbigny of 4.5629 (±0.0006) b.y., which is concordant with the Al–Mg age calculated by Spivak–Birndorf et al (2005, 2009) for both D’Orbigny and Sahara 99555, as well as the Mn–Cr ages and Hf–W ages determined for both angrites (Nyquist et al., 2003; Spivak–Birndorf et al, 2009). Utilizing precise Al–Mg and Hf–W chronometry, Kruijer et al. (2014) calculated a similar formation age for D’Orbigny and Sah 99555 of ~4.8 m.y. after CAIs. Each of these extinct radionuclides provide formation ages that are slightly younger than the measured Pb–Pb ages.

The ~4.564 b.y. Pb–Pb age for D’Orbigny is ~7 m.y. older than some other angrites such as AdoR, LEW 86010 and NWA 2999 (~4.5578, ~4.558, and ~4.557.9 b.y., respectively), and attests to very early accretion, igneous activity, differentiation, partial melting, and production of basaltic magma on the planetesimal. Attainment of isotopic equilibrium and crystallization will have occurred very soon thereafter (Shukolyukov and Lugmair, 2007). The decay products of extinct radionuclides such as 53Mn, 146Sm, 244Pu, and 182Hf suggest that the entire sequence from nebular condensation through parent body accretion, partial melting, siderophile–lithophile element fractionation, multiple metasomatic alteration events, and final cooling to temperatures low enough to retain fission tracks and noble gases was on the order of only a few m.y.

Trace and major element compositions and textures of D’Orbigny and Sah 99555 are almost identical (Nyquist et al., 2003; Floss et al., 2003), suggesting a possible genetic relationship (i.e., same parent body). In addition, Asuka 881371 and LEW 87051 have trace element trends similar to D’Orbigny and Sah 99555, suggesting that they may all share a common origin, or at least experienced similar petrologic histories. Trace element trends for LEW 86010 and AdoR are significantly different from each other and from all other angrites, and they represent distinct lithological sources.

Spectral data from studies of these new angrites, especially D’Orbigny, have yielded two possible spectral analogs among main-belt asteroids: the A-type 289 Nenetta and the Sr-type 3819 Robinson. Both asteroids exhibit the strong spectral reddening characteristic of the Al,Ti–diopside-hedenbergite component of angrites. However, important differences exist—the spectra of 289 Nenetta and 3819 Robinson contain distinct olivine bands which are absent in that of D’Orbigny, and the spectra of 3819 Robinson matches that of D’Orbigny in the visible but not in the near-infrared. It was inferred by Nyquist and Bogard (2003) that since D’Orbigny was spectroscopically similar to these two asteroids, both located between ~2.8 and 2.9 AU, it was also probable that the angrite parent body formed in this same region. They argued that asteroids at this heliocentric distance accreted too slowly to permit the accumulation of enough radiogenic 26Al to cause global melting and differentiation before attaining a diameter greater than ~200 km; i.e., a body larger than ~200 km in diameter would not have produced enough radiogenic heat to melt and differentiate an object of this size. By this line of reasoning, it could be concluded that the differentiated angrite PB was either not as large as 200 km in diameter, or that it formed at a smaller heliocentric distance than ~2.8 AU.

Without regard to heliocentric distance, Sanders and Scott (2007) argued that any body that accreted to a diameter >60 km (i.e., large enough to minimize heat loss from the surface through conduction) within ~2 m.y. of CAI formation (the oldest objects in the Solar System, dating to 4.567 b.y. ago) as the angrites did, must contain enough 26Al to produce global melting and differentiation. In contrast, Senshu and Matsui (2007) reasoned that accretion to a diameter of only ~14 km occurring within 2 m.y. of CAI formation was all that was required for global differentiation to occur, while accretion to a diameter of 40–160 km within 1.5 m.y. after CAI formation was cited by Hevey and Sanders (2006) and Sanders and Taylor (2005) as the minimums. Sanders and Scott (2011) later revised that to suggest radiogenic melting proceeded in bodies >20 km in diameter when accreted within 1.5 m.y. after CAI formation, while bodies accreting later than 1.5 m.y. after CAIs were heated but not melted. Furthermore, they found that bodies which accreted later than 2.2 m.y. would not have melted at all. Nevertheless, it can still be represented that at large heliocentric distances (>~2.8 AU), accretion would proceed too slowly for sufficient 26Al to accumulate and initiate global melting prior to a body growing too large (~200 km diameter) for melting to be possible (Nyquist and Bogard, 2003).

John T. Wasson (2016) presented evidence that the slow heating generated entirely by the decay of 26Al is insufficient to melt asteroids, and that an additional heat source would have been required; e.g., the rapid heating incurred from major impact events. He determined that the canonical 26Al/27Al ratio of 0.000052 is much too low to cause any significant melting, and that a minimum ratio of 0.00001 would be required to produce a 20% melt fraction on a well-insulated body having a significant concentration of 26Al. For example, the initial ratio of 0.0000004–0.0000005 calculated for the angrites Sah 99555 and D’Orbigny based on their 26Al–26Mg isochrons is too low to have generated any significant melting without an additional heat source. Therefore, impacts were a major source of heating in early solar system history. It has also been suggested by some that relatively small planetesimals might have been just the required size to allow heating by induction in the plasma environment of the T Tauri Sun.

The spectrum of asteroid 3628 Božněmcová has also been studied and compared to those of the angrite meteorites (Cloutis et al., 2006). Božněmcová is thought to have experienced partial melting and fractional crystallization under oxidizing conditions, and is considered to have a surface composition akin to an angritic crust (i.e., a composition of ~55–75 wt% clinopyroxene, ~20–33 wt% plagioclase feldspar, and 0–20 wt% olivine plus kirschteinite). It is a spectral type A asteroid containing an Fe+3-free clinopyroxene phase known only from angrites. However, despite its similarities in reflectance spectra, and thus mineralogy, to that of angrite meteorites, the latter typically contain more olivine than is observed on Božněmcová. On the other hand, studies of the orbits of the LL6 ordinary chondrites Bensour and Kilabo (Alexeev et al., 2009) suggest that these meteorites cross the orbit of Božněmcová, which is located in the inner asteroid belt (~2.2 AU). This location is associated with two efficient resonances responsible for transferring material into Earth-crossing trajectories.

Portions of the angrite asteroid must be in a stable orbit (planetary or asteroid belt) from which spallation has continued to occur over the past ~56 m.y. as indicated by the wide variation in angrite CRE ages. Notably, Rivkin et al. (2007) have determined that the largest known co-orbiting Trojan asteroid of Mars, the 1.3 km-diameter 5261 Eureka located at a trailing Lagrangian point, is a potentially good spectral analog to the angrites (as measured by Burbine et al., 2006) (see diagrams below). They suggest that 5261 Eureka could represent a captured fragment of the disrupted angrite parent body now in a stable orbit around Mars. standby for eureka–angrite diagramstandby for eureka–angrite diagram
Diagrams credit: Rivkin et al., Icarus, vol. 192, #2, (2007)
‘Composition of the L5 Mars Trojans: Neighbors, not siblings’
(https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2007.06.026; open access link)
The number of unique angrites represented in our collections today is limited, and they have been grouped by some as basaltic/quenched, sub-volcanic/metamorphic, or plutonic/metamorphic, along with a single dunitic sample in NWA 8535 (photo courtesy of Habib Naji). Notably, another find from Antarctica, Y-1154, is an anomalous meteorite containing Al,Ti–diopside-hedenbergite that is compositionally similar to angrites, but it has a unique fine-grained, dendritic texture. An excellent petrographic thin section micrograph of D’Orbigny can be seen on John Kashuba’s webpage. The specimen of D’Orbigny pictured above is a 1.6 g partial slice.

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