Dar al Gani 734


EL4
standby for dar al gani 734 photo
Found Winter 1996/97
27° 7.91' N., 16° 3' E.

Several stones weighing a total of 1,378 g were found in the Libyan Sahara. Studies performed at the Max–Planck–Institut für Chemie in Mainz, Germany by Frank Wlotzka have led to the classification of this meteorite as an EL4 chondrite. The chondrule texture and average size of 0.45 (±0.2) mm, and the size of the matrix enstatite crystals, indicate that this is an EL4 meteorite. Among EL chondrites, the petrologic type 4 sample is the most poorly represented in our collections, with the 1.2 g QUE 94368 being the first such meteorite found (although initially classified as an E5, QUE 94368 was subsequently determined to be an EL4; A. Rubin, 1997). Dar al Gani 734 is a highly weathered (W4) and friable meteorite.

Enstatite chondrites were formed in a highly reducing environment. Therefore, they contain virtually no metal in the oxide form—an amount much less than other chondrites, and even the terrestrial planets. The mineral sinoite (silicon oxynitride) has been found to occur in many EL chondrites that have high bulk N contents, and is associated with crystallization from an impact melt. This suggests that there was a period of high-temperature, melt-forming conditions followed by annealing, and subsequently, a late shock to stage S2.

Previously, employing multiple lines of evidence including chemical, petrographic, metamorphic, and cosmic-ray exposure age data, studies suggested that the EL and EH chondrites originate from different layers on the same parent body. More recently, very precise isotopic measurements were made of a statistically larger sampling of E chondrites and aubrites. Although their O-isotopic data were indeed identical, a three-isotope plot distinguished the EH group from the EL and aubrite groups by its slightly steeper slope; the plots of the EL and aubrite groups were collinear with the terrestrial fractionation line. A third grouplet with intermediate mineralogy has recently been identified, represented by the meteorite Y-793225. Studies have determined that it was not derived from the EH or EL groups through any metamorphic processes, and thus might represent a unique enstatite parent body. Likewise, the Shallowater meteorite is thought to have originated on a unique enstatite parent body.

Oxygen isotopic studies place the formation of enstatite chondrites on the terrestrial fractionation line, which is taken by some to mean that they formed within the inner Solar System. Based on Mn–Cr isotope systematics and its correlation with heliocentric distance, Shukolyukov and Lugmair (2004) concluded that E chondrites originated ~1.0–1.4 AU from the Sun before being perturbed into their present locations in the asteroid belt. Similarly, Nakashima et al. (2006) calculated a heliocentric distance of >1.1 and 1.3 AU for two EL3 chondrites (ALH 85119 and MAC 88136, respectively) on the basis of their implanted solar noble gas concentrations. In contrast, the identification of the E-asteroid group, including Hungaria at 1.94 AU, Nysa at 2.42 AU, and Angelina at 2.68 AU, suggests that the actual solar region of formation may lie at a greater heliocentric distance. Cosmochemists are presently trying to construct a suitable theory involving oxygen depletion in this E-asteroid region of the Solar System to explain the conflicting data.

The specimen of DaG 734 pictured above is a 5.2 g slice displaying an advanced stage of weathering due to its extended terrestrial residence, consistent with the extreme rarity of this meteorite. An abundance of large chondrules is a characteristic that distinguishes DaG 734 from the smaller-sized chondrules found in the EH group. The complete lack of visible free metal in this meteorite is likely a reflection of its advanced stage of weathering.