Achondrite, ungrouped
(carbonaceous chondrite-related)
standby for northwest africa 6704 photo
Found 2010 in Algeria
no coordinates recorded

At least forty-two conjoint stone meteorite fragments, mostly devoid of fusion crust, were found in Algeria in 2010. They were subsequently purchased by G. Hupé in February 2011 during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Associated fragments were tracked down and acquired from various Moroccan dealers by G. Hupé over the succeeding four months. The total combined weight of these paired fragments was 8,387 g. An additional 5,100 g of fragments, designated NWA 6693, were acquired in March of 2011 by E. Thompson and are considered likely paired with NWA 6704. One other group of paired stones previously obtained by G. Fujihara in January of 2011 received a separate designation as NWA 6926. A portion of both NWA 6704 and NWA 6926 were submitted for analysis and classification to the University of Washington in Seattle (A. Irving and S. Kuehner), while a portion of NWA 6693 was submitted to the University of California in Los Angeles (P. Warren).

The meteorite is an igneous cumulate that originated on a large differentiated parent body distinct from all others known to date. As seen in the high-res photo above (courtesy of G. Hupé), NWA 6704 is composed primarily of a low-Ca form of pigeonite (70.3 vol%), yellowish-green in color, occurring as large oikocrysts that enclose other grains such as olivine (Irving et al., 2011; Warren et al., 2013). These Fe-rich olivine inclusions are likely xenocrysts similar to those present in some quenched angrites (Hibiya et al., 2014). The smaller olivine grains present (15.6 vol%) contain relatively high NiO (ave. 0.77 wt%). Other components include highly sodic (Ab9293) plagioclase (13.4 vol%), chromite (0.6 vol%), and FeNi-metal (0.4 vol% as awaruite), along with trace amounts of merrillite and sulfides. The plagioclase forms a continuous framework within the pigeonite oikocrysts, and is considered to have crystallized in situ from an undercooled melt. Plagioclase contains tiny grains of the Ni-rich (75 wt%) metal awaruite. Curvilinear trains of micro-inclusions (mostly oxides) along with empty, smooth-walled bubbles are present in the pigeonite oikocrysts, reflecting shock mobilization/injection (Irving et al., 2011; Warren et al., 2013). Local compositional and textural variation, including an olivine-rich enclave, was observed in the NWA 6693 meteorite.

This meteorite is unique because of its great abundance of highly-ferroan mafic silicates (low-Ca pyroxene: Mg#~59; olivine: Fa50), its extremely sodic plagioclase (Ab9293), and its Ni-rich phases: olivine (ave. 0.77 wt% NiO), metal (ave. 81 wt% NiO), and sulfide (~0.002 wt% NiO). These Ni-rich phases are indicative of formation in a highly oxidizing environment (IW+2). Consistent with oxidation conditions is the fact that the bulk rock and siderophile element compositionsis are nearly chondritic, although the meteorite does show depletions of S and highly volatile elements. Elemental ratios (Mg/Si = 0.48 by wt.) indicate that very little fractionation has occurred in the parent melt, and the compositional trends exclude this rock from being a refractory residue (restite) of a partial melt (Warren et al., 2011; 2013). The FeO/MnO ratios for low-Ca pyroxene in this meteorite (81–106; Irving et al., 2011) are distinctly higher than those of both HED and martian meteorites, and it was concluded that the parental source materal for the NWA 6704 pairing group was extrememly oxidized (FeO-rich).

Iizuka et al. (2013) report high abundances of highly siderophile elements (HSE) for this meteorite similar to those of some brachinite-like achondrites such as GRA 06128/9 and Zag (b). In their study of HSE abundances and Os-isotopic systematics in brachinites and other FeO-rich brachinite-like achondrites, Day and Warren (2015) found that NWA 6693[6704] has a high Pt/Os ratio indicative of a cumulate derived from a low-degree partial melt infused with a residual metal melt component. In addition, they reasoned that the variability observed in the Pd/Os ratios of NWA 6693[6704] and other brachinite-like achondrites reflects variable degrees of fractionation of such a metal melt prior to its incorporation. The high abundance of HSEs was attributed by Warren et al. (2013) to the highly oxidizing formation conditions which inhibited sequestration and removal of HSEs by FeNi-metal during differentiation. In a study of NWA 6704 conducted by Archer et al. (2016), it was determined that the bulk HSE abundances are nearly chondritic and exhibit only a low degree of fractionation, consistent with a scenario in which only minor, localized silicate partial melting occurred with some loss of sulfides. Their results indicate that core formation had not proceeded to any great extent on the parent body by the time the meteorite was formed. It was further argued that the NWA 6704 chondritic precursor lithology was instantaneously melted during an impact event and then rapidly cooled at ~1–100°C/hr until temperatures reached ~900°C, at which time cooling proceeded slowly consistent with burial under an ejecta blanket (Hibiya et al., 2017).

Separate O-isotopic analyses were conducted for NWA 6704 and NWA 6693 initially at Okayama University in Japan, and at Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea, respectively. It was ascertained by both institutions that this ungrouped achondrite plots within the field of the acapulcoite–lodranite clan (NWA 6704**ACA-LOD); however, mafic silicates in these paired meteorites are significantly more ferroan and the feldspar significantly more sodic than members of the acapulcoite–lodranite clan. While this diagnostic method suggests a connection might exist with the acapulcoite–lodranite clan, its O-isotopic composition also plots within the CR/CB/CH field, presenting yet another possibility for a connection (NWA 6704**CR/CH). The O-isotopic composition of NWA 6704 also plots close to the ungrouped LEW 88763, and although their mineralogy is completely different it is notable that they have complementary HSE patterns (Day and Warren, 2015). Notably, new analyses of LEW 88763 by Day et al. (2015) led them to propose its reclassification as an anomalous achondrite, possibly related to NWA 6704 and pairings. A diagram depicting the O-isotopic plot for NWA 6704 and NWA 6693, the acapulcoite–lodranite clan, and brachinites is shown below courtesy of Achim Raphael.

standby for oxygen 3-isotope diagram

Northwest Africa 6704 — Oxygen isotopes (R. Tanaka, OkaU): replicate analyses by laser-fluorination produced δ17O = 1.015‰, 0.880‰; δ18O = 3.922‰, 3.613‰; Δ17O = -1.048‰, -1.020‰
Northwest Africa 6693 — Oxygen isotopes (B-G. Choi and I. Ahn, Seoul-NU): replicate analyses by laser-fluorination produced δ17O = 1.19‰; δ18O = 4.32‰; Δ17O = -1.08‰

Additional constraints on the origin of this meteorite were established through studies of the Cr-isotopic systematics (Sanborn et al., 2013). The resulting ε54Cr value of +1.69 (±0.07) resolves NWA 6704 from the acapulcoite–lodranite clan (ε54Cr = –0.75; Göpel and Birck, 2010); discrimination between these groups had not been attained through the use of O-isotopic values alone. Continued efforts to better resolve the relationship that exists among the numerous anomalous meteorites has been ongoing (e.g., Bunch et al., 2005, [#2308]; Floss et al., 2005, [MAPS vol. 40, #3]; Irving et al., 2014 [#2465]; Sanborn et al., 2014 [#2032]). As provided in the Sanborn et al. (2014) abstract, a coupled Δ17O vs. ε54Cr diagram is one of the best diagnostic tools for determining genetic relationships among meteorites. The diagram below includes the paired stones NWA 6704 and 6693, and it is apparent that they plot within the CR chondrite field.

standby for 17o-54cr diagram
Diagram credit: Sanborn et al., 45th LPSC, #2032 (2014)

However, a plot of Δ17O vs. olivine Mg# (Mg/[Mg+Fe]) resolves the NWA 6704 pairing group from other meteorite groups as well as ungrouped meteorites with similar O-isotopic compositions, as it displays a significantly more ferroan composition (Warren et al., 2013). Further resolution of the parental source group for NWA 6704 was obtained by Hibiya et al. (2017) through a titanium isotope analysis. It is demonstrated on an Δ17O vs. ε50Ti coupled diagram that the meteorite plots within the field for carbonaceous chondrites (see diagram below). Based on the results of their petrologic, geochemical, and isotopic analyses of NWA 6704, Hibiya et al. (2017) concluded that an undifferentiated asteroid experienced an impact-generated melting event followed by rapid cooling. Presumably, subsequent burial beneath an ejecta blanket ushered an extended period of slow cooling.

standby for 17o-50ti diagram
Diagram credit: Hibiya et al., 48th LPSC, #1317 (2017)

An Ar–Ar and noble gas study was conducted by Fernandes et al. (2013) to constrain the petrologic history and to determine the CRE age of this meteorite. The oldest possible crystallization age was determined to be 4.56 (±0.29) b.y., or 4–5 m.y. after CAIs, which is in agreement with the U–Pb age of 4.56280 (±0.00046) b.y. determined by Iizuka et al. (2013). A refined Pb–Pb isochron age of 4.56278 (±0.00018) b.y. was calculated by combining new laboratory data obtained from both the Australian National University and UC Davis (Huyskens et al. (2017). The occurrence of an impact-resetting event prior to complete cooling of the planetesimal is evidenced by the loss of fluid from micro-inclusion bubble trains present in orthopyroxene crystals. The investigation also revealed that another thermal event occurred ≤2.20 (±0.33) b.y. ago. The CRE age was calculated based on Ne and Ar systematics to be 30 (±3) m.y. Furthermore, the pre-atmospheric size of the meteoroid was calculated to have been at least 100 cm in diameter.

The reflectance spectra of NWA 6704 was acquired and compared to that of known asteroid groups (Le Corre et al., 2014). The analysis of a large-sized sample was comparable to spectra from the S(VI) asteroid group, which is thought to represent formation as a partial melt residue (e.g., winonaites). The spectra of a smaller, grain-sized sample plotted between the S(V) and S(VI) asteroid fields, the former thought to represent formation as a metamorphosed H chondrite or a primitive achondrite (e.g., acapulcoites/lodranites). However, direct spectral comparisons of NWA 6704 to known asteroids only produced a relatively close match to V-type asteroids (e.g., Vesta). Moreover, direct spectral comparisons of NWA 6704 to HED suite meteorites demonstrated a close similarity to the basaltic and cumulate eucrites as well.

The features of this unique meteorite pairing group were found to be consistent with a low weathering grade, and it has been described as generally unshocked (S1) after significant annealing (Warren et al., 2013). Notably, a separate 940 g stone, NWA 10132, was found at a location different from the NWA 6704 pairing group but has a similar mineralogy, an almost identical O-isotopic composition, and a matching U–Pb age (Irving et al., 2015; Koefoed et al., 2015). Based on these facts, NWA 10132 is thought to be a possible genetic relative, likely co-magmatic and/or launch paired. Consistent with this hypothesis, Y. Amelin (2017) determined that the Rb–Sr data for NWA 10132, NWA 6693, and NWA 6704 are similar and establish an isochron age of 4.543 (±0.035) b.y., considered to represent the time of parent body accretion. The specimen of NWA 6704 framed above is a 1.56 g fragment.