At 5:00 on a March morning, ~100 stones totaling 34 kg were heard and seen to fall in New Mexico, after putting on a display for observers in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and as far away as Texas and Wyoming. The fireball left a thick, twisting dust trail, perhaps a mile wide and hundreds of miles long, comprising perhaps thousands of tons of material. Grabbing his Kodak Brownie camera, a rare photo of the actual fireball in flight was taken by the quick-acting Charles M. Brown as it spiralled towards Earth (see below), and other images of the remnant twisted dust cloud were captured. Information was recorded in a note by Harvey Nininger describing the scene as photographed by Charles Brown:
Great meteor of Mar. 24 1933. Photo by Chas. M. Brown and copyrighted by him. Nininger survey demonstrated that meteor was visible for 15 to 22 seconds. Cloud remained visible 3 hrs. or more. Diameter of luminous sphere was about 6 miles. Diameter of spiral train was about 1 mile. Meteorites from this fall were strewn along a path of 28 miles having a width of about 2 to 3 miles wide. The fall was in an E.N.E. to W.S.W. direction beginning about 25 mi. W.S.W. from Clayton New Mexico. Meteorites were preserved in America Meteorite Museum, U.S. 66, west of Winslow Arizona.
The small stones were collected by ranchers along a distance of 28 miles near the Pasamonte Ranch, and these were subsequently identified as meteorites by Harvey Nininger, who had independently located the strewn field after spending many months conducting eyewitness interviews.
Pasamonte was determined to be an unequilibrated (Type 2 in the metamorphic sequence of Takeda and Graham, 1991) basaltic meteorite that has retained some primary FeMg zoning in pigeonite grains. While it was previously classified as an unequilibrated monomict eucrite representing the type specimen for "Pasamonte-type" lithologies in polymict eucrites, detailed examination has resulted in its reclassification as a polymict breccia. Pasamonte contains a variety of basaltic lithologies, granulites, granulitic breccias, and impact-melt breccias. In addition, it contains pyroxene of both equilibrated and unequilibrated types with differing zoning types. Pasamonte exhibits evidence of mild thermal annealing by the variation it exhibits in pyroxene lamellar wavelengths, a factor related to cooling rate. This feature, along with the Fe-enriched zones adjacent to pyroxenes fractures and reversed zoning in pyroxenes, provides evidence supporting a low degree post-magmatic metasomatic equilibration process associated with an Fe-rich dry vapor lasting ~60 years (Schwartz and McCallum, 2003; McCallum et al., 2004; Barrat et al., 2011). This duration can be contrasted to the 25,000 years of annealing experienced by the highly metamorphosed eucrite Haraiya (Type 7). By contrast, the eucrite NWA 049 represents a sample that experienced a high degree of post-magmatic metasomatic equilibration. Pasamonte has a very old crystallization age of 4.58 b.y., and a young cosmic ray exposure age of only 7.7 m.y.
In 1981, the Basaltic Volcanism Study Project (BVSP) assigned Pasamonte, along with Nuevo Laredo and Lakangaon, to the Nuevo Laredo Trend eucrites, which were formed from fractional crystallization of Main Group melts; however, this assignment of Pasamonte might have been based on incomplete data. The three subgroups of the noncumulate group of eucrites have been separated based on the molar Mg/(Mg+Fe) (here abbreviated Mg#) versus an incompatible element such as Ti, as follows:
Main Group (primary basalt): Mg# ~ 0.380.41; Ti ~ 34 mg/g
Stannern trend (primary partial melt): Mg# similar to main series; Ti up to 5.7 mg/g
Nuevo Laredo trend (fractional crystallization): Mg# extends from Main Group to 0.32; Ti = 5.7 mg/g
A plot of the three subgroups shows a convergence at the center of the Main Group, implying that a genetic relationship (i.e., same parent body) exists among them, and a possible derivation of the two trends from the primary melts of the Main Group. Currently, the Main Group is combined with the Nuevo Laredo Trend to form a single series, while the Stannern Trend represents Main Group magma that has been contaminated by a crustal partial melt.
It was demonstrated that the HED parent body was relatively homogeneous in its O-isotopic composition. In a study of a number of eucrites having anomalous O-isotopic ratios and/or anomalous chemical compositions, textures, or ages, evidence was presented indicating that Pasamonte must have originated on a parent body distinct from that of the other HED meteorites (Scott et al., 2008, 2009). For example, its significant displacement from the Eucrite Fractionation Line (EFL)plotting ~4.7 standard deviations from the eucrite/diogenite mean Δ17O valuecannot be reasonably explained by the admixture of foreign impactor contaminates, by terrestrial weathering processes, or by an isotopically heterogeneous parent body. Pasamonte has a pyroxene Fe/Mn ratio of 29, which is at the lower range (2840) of typical eucrites. Moreover, chromite compositions are much more Al-rich and Ti-poor than in other eucrites. It is reasonable to assume that Pasamonte was derived from one of many Vesta-sized asteroids that likely existed early in Solar System history, prior to the Late Heavy Bombardment period ~3.54.1 b.y. ago. Notably, the paired brecciated, vesiculated basalts PCA 82502 and PCA 91007 have O-isotopic compositions that are virtually identical to Pasamonte (see diagrams below), and they have similar anomalously high abundances of certain siderophile elements (Ni, Ir, Os) as well; it could be inferred that they formed in a common nebular region (Scott et al., 2009).
Oxygen Isotope Plot for Eucrite-type Achondrites
Diagram credit: Mittlefehldt et al., 47th LPSC, #1240 (2016)
Oxygen Isotope Plot for Eucrite-type Achondrites and Diogenites
click on diagram for a magnified view
Diagram credit: Mittlefehldt et al., MAPS, vol. 57, #2, pp. 484526 (2022 open accesslink)
'Eucrite-type achondrites: Petrology and oxygen isotope compositions'
As presented by Sanborn and Yin (2014) [#2018], a Δ17O vs. ε54Cr diagram is one of the best available diagnostic tools for determining genetic (parent body) relationships among meteorites, constrained by the degree to which isotopic homogenization occurred on their respective parent bodies. Moreover, Sanborn et al. (2015) demonstrated that ε54Cr values are not affected by aqueous alteration. Currently, a number of anomalous eucritic meteorites are known, including Ibitira, Pasamonte, NWA 1240, PCA 82502/91007, Bunburra Rockhole, A-881394, EET 92023, and Emmaville, each of which are resolved from typical eucrites and the HED parent body both isotopically and compositionally; notably, the latter four anomalous eucritic meteorites share close similarities in their O isotopes and might be genetically related (Barrett et al., 2017; see O-isotopic diagram). However, high-resolution O-isotopic data presented by Mittlefehldt et al. (2018, 2021) distinguishes many of these anomalous eucrite-type achondrites from the normal eucrites (in which Δ17O is within ±3 MAD units of the HED igneous median) and from each other petrographically and/or isotopically (see histograms below). Asuka 881394 is exceptional in having the oldest measured UPb age of any achondrite. Employing the precise 238U/235U value of 137.768, 2015), Wimpenny et al. (2019) determined the most precise and accurate PbPb isochron age for A-881394 of 4.56495 (± 0.00053) b.y. By comparison, the ungrouped NWA 11119 (likely related to NWA 7325) has an AlMg age relative to D'Orbigny of 4.5648 (± 0.0003) b.y. (Srinivasan et al., 2018).
Δ17O Composition of HED and Eucrite-type Achondrites
Histogram credit: Mittlefehldt et al., 49th LPSC, #2700 (2018)
Histogram of HED and Eucrite-type Achondrites
Deviations from HED igneous median (median absolute deviation units)
click on photo for a magnified view
Histogram credit: Mittlefehldt et al., MAPS, Early View, (2021 open accesslink)
'Eucrite-type achondrites: Petrology and oxygen isotope compositions'
Another useful tool to help resolve potential genetic relationships among meteorites is the pyroxene Fe/Mn ratio. While Fe and Mn do experience nebular fractionations, they are not readily fractionated during parent body igneous processing, and therefore different Fe/Mn values are inherent in different parent objects. Mittlefehldt et al. (2017) utilized a number of eucrites and anomalous eucrite meteorites, including A-881394, EET 92023, Ibitira, and Emmaville, to compare the Fe/Mn and Fe/Mg ratios in low-Ca pyroxenes. Consistent with the O-isotopic results, these four meteorites plot in separate locations on an Fe/Mn vs. Fe/Mg coupled diagram, which suggests that they derive from separate parent bodies (see top two diagram below). Moreover, despite the fact that Pasamonte and PCA 82502/91007 are similar with respect to both Δ17O and ε54Cr values (see Sanborn et al., 2016, #2256), these two meteorites are resolved on an Fe/Mn vs. Fe/Mg coupled diagram, which suggests that they derive from separate parent bodies as well (see bottom diagram below).
Diagram adapted from Mittlefehldt et al., 47th LPSC, #1240 (2016)
Diagram credit: Greenwood et al., 48th LPSC, #1194 (2017)
It is known that ureilites, generally considered to originate from a common parent body, have a relatively wide degree of variability in Δ17O, but a relatively narrow degree of variability in ε54Cr. By comparison, Sanborn et al. (2014) inferred that the similar degrees of variability that exist among these anomalous eucritic meteorites could likewise reflect a common origin from a single Vesta-like parent body distinct from typical eucrites (see diagram below). Several exceptions to this hypothesis have since been identified including the following: NWA 1240 plots away from the common HED field; PCA 82502/91007 is resolved from the other anomalous eucrites by both O-isotopes and pyroxene Fe/Mn ratio; A-881394 has significantly different oxygen isotopes, Ti/Al and Fe/Mn values, and bulk composition compared to HEDs (Mittlefehldt et al. (2015); and EET 92023 exhibits significant differences in O-isotopes, Cr-isotopes (Sanborn et al., 2016, #2256), and pyroxene composition compared to HEDs and other anomalous achondrites. EET 92023 shares similar O- and Cr-isotopes to A-881394 and Bunburra Rockhole indicating that they each formed within a common isotopic reservoir. Under the hypothesis that Δ17O values serve equally well as a discriminator compared to ε54Cr values, all of these anomalous meteorites could derive from numerous unique parent bodies distinct from Vesta (see diagram below). Furthermore, although Bunburra Rockhole and A-881394 have the same oxygen and chromium isotope compositions, new in-depth analyses of Bunburra Rockhole conducted by Benedix et al. (2017, and references therein) have revealed that these two meteorites have very different textures and mineral chemistries; e.g., Bunburra Rockhole has plagioclase with An8790, while A-881394 has plagioclase with An98. Based on their results, they consider it likely that these two meteorites also derive from separate parent bodies.
Diagram adapted from Sanborn and Yin, 45th LPSC, #2018 (2014)
Other anomalous eucrite-like achondrites have joined this disparate group. Northwest Africa 12338 is an unbrecciated basaltic meteorite that is geochemically similar to eucrites but has some differences in its texture and mineralogy, and has O-isotopic values that plot in a distinct space above the HED trend. Two others, NWA 8671 (Irving et al., 2018 #2247) and Serra Pelada (Yin et al., 2019 #6051), have anomalous O and Cr isotopes and plot in unique isotopic space (see diagrams below; Serra Pelada plot not shown).
Diagram credit: Guo et al., 50th LPSC, #1583 (2019)
click on image for a magnified view
Diagram credit: Irving et al., 49th LPSC, #2247 (2018)
Because there are now a number of eucrite-like meteorites that are not grouped with normal eucrites for various reasons, it was proposed that the term eucrite be used as a description of a rock type rather than to imply an origin on the presumed HED parent body Vesta. The photo above shows a partially fusion-crusted 18.93 g specimen of Pasamonte acquired from the Robert Haag Collection.
The left photo above captures the shock-generated condensation cloud at the moment when a jet breaks the sound barrier. Compare this to the Pasamonte fireball photo on the right. The corkscrew appearance of the dust train attests to the spinning motion of the incoming object over an extended period of time.
The photo below shows the persistent dust cloud of the Pasamonte meteorite showing adiabatic effects.
The excellent photo below shows a large stone from the Pasamonte fall with hi-res details of the fusion crust.
click on image for a magnified view
Photo courtesy of Dr. Carl AgeeInstitute of Meteoritics, University of New Mexico