EAGLES NEST


Brachinite
standby for eagles nest photo
Found Summer of 1960
no coordinates recorded

A well-oriented, fusion-crusted meteorite weighing 154 g was found in Central Australia lying next to an eagle's nest. Although the type specimen Brachina was found in central South Australia, differences between it and Eagles Nest in mineralogy, chemistry, and average grain size indicate that they are not fall-related. Analysis and classification of Eagles Nest was conducted at the University of Arizona, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (W. V. Boynton), and a classification of brachinite was proposed. Eagles Nest shows some differences to most brachinites including its lack of fine-grained assemblages of orthopyroxene and opaques lining various olivine grain boundaries. Goodrich (2010) described reduction features that exist on such assemblages in some brachinites, but which are absent in Eagles Nest. It was conjectured that Eagles Nest might have originated from a different brachinite-like parent body.

To further resolve the petrogenesis of the brachinite group, a consortium of institutions was established to make an in-depth study of the unique Antarctic meteorite GRA 06128/9. This is a high-phosphate, high-Na, coarse-grained troctolitic anorthosite (Zeigler et al., 2008), perhaps also properly called an alkalic leucodiorite (Treiman et al., 2008) or a basaltic trachyandesite, which is composed predomanantly (75 vol%) of albitic plagioclase (oligoclase: Ab85An15 mol%); this is an extraordinarily high abundance of plagioclase compared to other meteorite magma types. It has an O-isotopic composition that plots close to the TFL and which is indistinguishable from the plot of brachinites. In a similar manner, the Fe/Mn ratio measured for both olivine and pyroxene are indistinguishable from that of other brachinites (this ratio remains constant regardless of differentiation processes and is diagnostic for the origin of each planetary body). Moreover, the major, minor, and trace element chemistry of GRA 06128/9 is very similar to that of brachinites. Studies of highly siderophile element (HSE) abundances, and examination of the metal–sulfide segregation processes, led to the determination by Day et al. (2012) that GRA 06128/9 was likely genetically related (i.e., from the same parent body) to the brachinites.

Consistent with the ancient crystallization age of brachinites, the GRA 06128/9 samples have a Sm–Nd crystallization age of ~4.55 b.y. (Nyquist et al., 2008, 2009) and an Al–Mg age relative to D'Orbigny angrite of ~4.566 b.y. (Shearer et al., 2009), attesting to commencement of magmatism on the parent body within a couple of m.y. after CAI formation. As with brachinites and the other inner Solar System objects, the Sm–Nd age of the GRA meteorite was reset ~3.4 b.y. ago, close to the Late Heavy Bombardment period. The CRE age calculated for GRA 06128/9 is 2.9–3.0 m.y., which is within the range of CRE ages (2.0–3.5 m.y.) calculated for Brachina (Mittlefehldt et al., 1998 and references therein; Matsuda et al., 2008), but is significantly different from that of Eagles Nest (44–49 m.y.).

It has been argued that GRA 06128/9 possibly represents a lower crustal cumulate developed after 10–30% partial melting of a chondritic source on the brachinite parent body. An estimated cooling rate of 10–20°C/year was derived (University of Tokyo; Miyamoto), consistent with a near-surface burial at a depth of 15–20 m. This is contrasted with the deep, ultramafic mantle region from which typical brachinites are thought to have formed as residues of partial melting (Ash et al., 2008). It can be inferred from petrological, geochemical, and mineralogical data that GRA 06128/9, and thus all brachinites, originated on a large, partially differentiated planetary body distinct from the Earth, Moon, or Mars; interestingly, speculation has surfaced about a possible origin on Venus (Shearer et al., 2008). Still, in light of its isotopic, chemical, and mineralogical similarities to IAB complex irons such as Caddo County—which similarly contains inclusions of albitic plagioclase (Ab84 mol%)—it remains plausible that this iron asteroid could be the parental source of the brachinites (Nyquist et al., 2009).

Laboratory melting experiments conducted by Gardner-Vandy et al. (2013) have demonstrated that an FeO-rich (oxidized) R chondrite-like precursor asteroid can undergo significant partial melting (14–31% at ~1250°C) and melt removal to produce a brachinite-like residue, and possibly also a low degree partial melting (<10% at <1250°C) and melt removal to produce a complementary evolved melt having a composition like that of the brachinite-related GRA 06128/9. In their continued effort to attain the composition of the GRA 06128/9 meteorite, considered to be a likely representative of the brachinite parent body feldspathic crust, Sosa et al. (2017) employed multiple modeling techniques and conducted melting experiments utilizing R4 chondrite LAP 03639. Their results demonstrate that an R chondrite-like precursor asteroid can undergo low-degree partial melting (~16–20%) at 1140°C at an oxygen fugacity of ~IW to produce a brachinite-like residue and a complementary evolved melt with a composition like that of GRA 06128/9. Additional information concerning the origin and petrogenesis of brachinites and GRA 06128/9 can be found on the NWA 3151 and Reid 013 pages.

The specimen of Eagles Nest shown above is a 1.2 g fusion crusted partial slice (photo courtesy of K. Regelman). The top photo below shows a complete slice of Eagles Nest, while the bottom photo shows a small preserved portion of the oriented face of this meteorite exhibiting radial flowlines.

eagles nest
click on photo above for a magnified view

Photos courtesy of Ken Regelman


For additional information on GRA 06128/9, read the PSRD article by G. Jeffrey Taylor: "More Evidence for Multiple Meteorite Magmas", Feb 2009.