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The survivability of phyllosilicates and carbonates impacting Stardust Al foils: Facilitating the search for cometary water

Wozniakiewicz, Penelope J., Ishii, Hope A., Kearsley, Anton T., Bradley, John P., Price, Mark. C., Burchell, Mark J., Teslich, Nick, Cole, Mike J. (2015) The survivability of phyllosilicates and carbonates impacting Stardust Al foils: Facilitating the search for cometary water. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 50 (12). pp. 2003-2023. ISSN 1086-9379. E-ISSN 1945-5100. (doi:10.1111/maps.12568) (KAR id:56951)

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Comet 81P/Wild 2 samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission provide an unequalled opportunity to study the contents of, and hence conditions and processes operating on, comets. They can potentially validate contentious interpretations of cometary infrared spectra and in situ mass spectrometry data: specifically the identification of phyllosilicates and carbonates. However, Wild 2 dust was collected via impact into capture media at ~6 km s−1, leading to uncertainty as to whether these minerals were captured intact, and, if subjected to alteration, whether they remain recognizable. We simulated Stardust Al foil capture conditions using a two‐stage light‐gas gun, and directly compared transmission electron microscope analyses of pre‐ and postimpact samples to investigate survivability of lizardite and cronstedtite (phyllosilicates) and calcite (carbonate). We find the phyllosilicates do not survive impact as intact crystalline materials but as moderately to highly vesiculated amorphous residues lining resultant impact craters, whose bulk cation to Si ratios remain close to that of the impacting grain. Closer inspection reveals variation in these elements on a submicron scale, where impact‐induced melting accompanied by reducing conditions (due to the production of oxygen scavenging molten Al from the target foils) has resulted in the production of native silicon and Fe‐ and Fe‐Si‐rich phases. In contrast, large areas of crystalline calcite are preserved within the calcite residue, with smaller regions of vesiculated, Al‐bearing calcic glass. Unambiguous identification of calcite impactors on Stardust Al foil is therefore possible, while phyllosilicate impactors may be inferred from vesiculated residues with appropriate bulk cation to Si ratios. Finally, we demonstrate that the characteristic textures and elemental distributions identifying phyllosilicates and carbonates by transmission electron microscopy can also be observed by state‐of‐the‐art scanning electron microscopy providing rapid, nondestructive initial mineral identifications in Stardust residues.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/maps.12568
Projects: [UNSPECIFIED] Consolidated grant for Astrophysics and Space Science at the Univ of Kent
Uncontrolled keywords: comets, Stardust mission, phyllosilicates
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy > QB651 Planets, Minor
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Physics and Astronomy
Depositing User: Mark Burchell
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2016 12:28 UTC
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 14:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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