A mass of 330 g was found in the Nullarbor region of Western Australia. Its O-isotopic composition and bulk chemistry matched that of four previously identified olivine-rich achondrites. Interestingly, another brachinite, Reid 027, was recovered in the same region as Reid 013 (~59 km away), but it has been argued that it is unpaired to Reid 013 in light of grain size and plagioclase compositional differences. An ~517 g stone, designated Nova 003 (syn. Window Butte), was presumably found in Western Australia during the same year and is considered to be likely paired with Reid 013 (M. Prinz, AMNH; Lewis and Clark, ASU).
Reid 013 is composed primarily of olivine (92 vol%) forming 120° triple junctions, minor clinopyroxene (~3 vol%) and chromite (~1 vol%), along with trace amounts of orthopyroxene, FeNi-metal, and troilite (Hasegawa and Mikouchi, 2016; Crossley et al., 2020). Brachinites are resolved into a small unique, but diverse group, which was initially identified in 1983 with the discovery of the Brachina meteorite. Interestingly, on an oxygen three-isotope diagram Brachina plots well away from the other known brachinites and is close to the winonaite field (Greenwood et al., 2007). Unlike other brachinites, which are igneous rocks, Brachina has near chondritic composition and may have been rapidly cooled from an impact melt (Crossley et al., 2020). Another feature of Brachina that is contrary to other brachinite members is its high abundance of plagioclase, measured to be 9.9 vol%, while other brachinites contain none or only trace amounts (Mittlefehldt et al., 1998).
Brachinites exhibit significant O-isotopic heterogeneity with a dispersion of 0.17, a value which lies between that of HEDs (0.12) on one hand, and both the winonaite group (0.3) and the acapulcoitelodranite clan (0.75) on the other (Rumble III et al., 2008). It is inferred that the brachinites either formed on a single heterogeneous parent body, or on multiple bodies that underwent similar petrogenetic processes (Gardner-Vandy et al., 2012). This relatively high O-isotopic heterogeneity of brachinites has persuaded some that the meteorites should be considered primitive achondrites (Nehru et al. , 1992). However, other investigators have argued that brachinites are differentiated, ultramafic achondrites representing cumulates (Mittlefehldt et al., 2003) or partial melt residues (Gardner-Vandy et al., 2013) of high-temperature igneous melts.
Crossley et al. (2020) distinguished two subgroups among the brachinite clan: oxidized and reduced (see diagram below). The oxidized subgroup has an oxygen fugacity >IW1.35, an olivine Fa content >30 with Fe/Mn ratio >65, subchondritic Ir/Os and Pt/Os ratios, and HSE that are hosted in sulfides. In addition to the meteorites shown in the diagram below, the oxidized subgroup also includes ALH 84025, Hughes 026, NWA 3151, and NWA 4969; see the NWA 11756 page for details about the reduced subgroup as distinguished by Crossley et al. (2020).
FeMgMn Redox Trend for Brachinites and Brachinite-like Achondrites
Diagram credit: Crossley et al., MAPS, vol. 55, #9, fig. S9 (2020)
'Sulfide-dominated partial melting pathways in brachinites'
Brachinites represent products of metamorphism and oxidation of chondritic material, with some members likely forming as a partial melt residue (restite) and others as a cumulate phase. Some brachinites and brachinite-like meteorites, including Reid 013, Hughes 026, NWA 7388, and NWA 7605, contain secondary reduction features that possibly formed during parent body metasomatism by methane (Irving et al., 2013). Brachinites such as ALH 84025 and EET 99402/07 exhibit several features that are consistent with a cumulate origin: 1) high olivine CaO content consistent with a high-temperature igneous origin; 2) cumulate-textured plagioclase grains enclosing olivine grains; 3) crystallographic preferred orientation (CPO) comprising foliation [planar alignment] and lineation [much longer in one dimension than in the other two] of olivine; 4) element patterns inconsistent with the removal of a metalsulfide melt; 5) lack of tectonic strain features; 6) mineralogy exhibiting igneous textures rather than metamorphic recrystallization; and 7) REE patterns and elemental ratios more consistent with igneous rocks containing cumulate plagioclase. A petrographic analysis of Reid 013 conducted by Hasegawa and Mikouchi (2016) revealed no obvious preferred orientation of olivine crystals, which is consistent with a partial melt residue rather than a cumulus origin. However, in another investigation of olivine CPO in brachinite EET 99402/07, Hasegawa et al. (2017) found a CPO pattern (preferential alignment along the b axis) similar to that observed in Reid 013 and the brachinite-like MIL 090206 pairing group. This is indicative of high-degree melting and olivine accumulation; however, further study is needed to distinguish between a CPO pattern associated with compaction of residual grains and one associated with accumulation from a melt.
Alternatively, studies have demonstrated that partial melting and melt removal of a chondritic source similar to R chondrites at an oxygen fugacity of IW1 could lead to the formation of FeO-rich brachinites (Gardner-Vandy and Lauretta, 2011; Gardner-Vandy et al., 2012, 2013). It has been proposed that the brachinites could be divided into two subgroups (Nehru, et al., 1996): those which are near-chondritic and undepleted (UBRA) (e.g., Brachina and Reid 013), and those depleted in a basaltic component (DBRA) (e.g., ALH 84025, Eagles Nest, and Hughes 026). The primitive acapulcoitelodranite clan has a similar distinction, with an undepleted member (ACA) and a depleted member (LOD), although this group is reduced instead of oxidized. Moreover, the loss of an FeNiS partial melt in the lodranites is not analogous to the siderophilechalcophile element pattern seen in brachinites. Further evidence for a formation of brachinites as a partial melt residue is provided on the NWA 3151 page. Ultimately, brachinites were thermally metamorphosed to type 6 or 7 creating the highly equilibrated mineral compositions and recrystallized textures that are observed. A thermal event at ~4.13 b.y. ago is revealed through KAr isotopic chronometry.
Brachinites have trace element compositions similar to those of winonaites and silicate inclusions in IAB-IIICD irons: a high ratio of refractory metals to nonrefractory metals (Ir/Au), depletion of chalcophiles (through loss of FeNiS melt), and high volatile abundances (Zn). If the highly oxidized brachinites were to undergo redox exchange processes the resulting chemistry would be very similar to that of the pyroxene-rich winonaites. On an oxygen 3-isotope diagram the brachinites overlap parts of the winonaiteIAB complex field, as well as parts of the HED and angrite fields. Moreover, O-isotopes and mineralogy for several additional olivine-rich achondrites, including Zag (b), Divnoe, and NWA 4042, plot very close to the brachinite field, and therefore many or all of these meteorites may be members of the brachinite family. On the other hand, they could reflect formation by analogous processes on different parent bodies. In a like manner, the acapulcoitelodranite clan also falls on the same O-mixing line, suggesting that each of these diverse groups may be related to a common chondritic precursor through variable redox processes.
In two recent consortia, analyses of the unique Antarctic alkalic igneous meteorite GRA 06128/9 was conducted. It was suggested that this thermally metamorphosed meteorite containing cumulate sodic plagioclase may represent moderate degrees of fractional melting (1330%) at intermediate temperatures (<1200°C) on an L-like chondrite parent body having chondritic abundances of moderately-volatile elements (Shearer et al., 2009). This alkali-rich partial melt phase was subsequently extracted under volatility-enhanced (possibly water) conditions after incorporation of a low-temperature FeNiS melt phase. GRA 06128/9 has Δ17O-isotopic values, Fe/Mn ratios, and olivine Ni contents that are similar to those of brachinites (and with similar trends to those of angrites, pallasites, mesosiderites, and Vesta), although its δ18O values are higher than those of brachinites and other meteorite groups. In addition, it has major, minor, and trace element chemistry similar to brachinites and was formed under similar redox conditions.
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 (1431% at ~1250°C) and melt removal to produce a brachinite-like residue. Furthermore, it can possibly undergo 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. Sosa et al. (2017) employed multiple modeling techniques and conducted further melting experiments utilizing R4 chondrite LAP 03639. Their results demonstrate that an R chondrite-like precursor asteroid can undergo low-degree partial melting (~1620%) 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 experimental data and modeling results attained by Lunning et al. (2017) have further constrained the conditions of formation for GRA 06128/9. Their investigation indicates that both equilibrium and non-equilibrium partial melting (the latter condition corresponding to lower temperatures and degrees of melting) on an oxidized parent body similar to R chondrites, in which 1422% melt is generated at a temperature of 11201140°C and a redox state of IWIW+1, reproduces most closely the whole rock composition of the GRA 06128/9 meteorite. The authors also posit that unsampled lithologies containing higher silica abundances may have been produced on the GRA 06128/9 (or the brachinite) parent body, in association with very low degrees of non-equilibrium partial melting. These potential lithologies might be akin to the Almahata Sitta trachyandesite samples MS-MU-011/035, which are thought to represent the primary crust of the ureilite parent body.
A very ancient crystallization age of the GRA achondrites based on SmNd and AlMg systematics is 4.5649 (±0.0002) b.y., consistent with that of Brachina (MnCr age of 4.5648 [± 0.0005] b.y.; Dunlap et al., 2016) and other brachinites, and consistent with ancient magmatism and crustal formation on the brachinite parent body just 2.65 m.y. after CAI formation (Wimpenny et al., 2011). Dating single feldspar grains in GRA 06128 gave an age of 4.34 (±0.02) b.y. (Lindsay et al., 2011). A model developed by Senshu and Usui (2011) predicts that formation occurred at a depth of <12 km on a parent body 36100 km in diameter. As with brachinites and the other inner Solar System objects, the SmNd age of the GRA meteorite was reset ~3.4 b.y. ago, close to the Late Heavy Bombardment period. Some investigators argue that GRA 06128/9 is most likely a member of the brachinite group based on an examination of the metal-sulfide segregation processes and the observed highly siderophile element (HSE) abundances (Zeigler et al., 2008; Day et al., 2012).
Many of the known brachinites have disparate cosmic-ray exposure ages indicating they represent numerous separate ejection events. According to a study by Patzer et al. (2003), the CRE ages of EET 99402/407, Hughes 026, and Eagles Nest form a cluster at ~48 m.y., and those of Reid 013 and ALH 84025 coincide at ~10 m.y. In a separate study by Ma et al. (2003), the cosmogenic nuclide calculations establish a range of CRE ages from 4 m.y. for Brachina to ~25.5 m.y. for Eagles Nest. From their noble gas analyses of 15 brachinite and brachinite-like meteorites, together with the literature values for seven others, Beard et al. (2018) identified three potential CRE age clusters. The youngest cluster reflects a possible ejection event that occurred ~10.5 (±1.1) m.y. ago comprising the two brachinites Reid 013 and ALH 84025 and the two brachinite-like meteorites NWA 1500 and NWA 4518. Importantly, two of these CRE age clusters include both brachinite and brachinite-like meteorites, which attests to a common parent body for all of these meteorites (see diagram below).
click on image for a magnified view
Diagram credit: Beard et al., 81st MetSoc, #6170 (2018)
As demonstrated by Sanborn et al. (2014), a coupled Δ17O vs. ε54Cr diagram is one of the best diagnostic tools for determining genetic relationships between meteorites. Moreover, Sanborn et al. (2015) demonstrated that ε54Cr values are not affected by aqueous alteration. The diagram below includes the brachinites Brachina and NWA 3151 along with the GRA 06128/9 paired stones, and it is apparent that they all plot very close to each other in Δ17Oε54Cr space, which is at least consistent with formation in a common isotopic reservoir.
Diagram credit: Sanborn and Yin, 46th LPSC, #2241 (2015)
Current research to determine the olivine compositions of asteroids has established a strong link between brachinites and the A-type asteroids 289 Nenetta and 246 Asporina (Sunshine et al., 2007). While there has been some speculation that Venus may possibly be the source for the brachinites (Shearer et al., 2008), others have recognized the isotopic, geochemical, and mineralogical similarities that exist between GRA 06128/9 and the IAB complex irons such as Caddo County and have considered this iron asteroid to be a plausible source (Nyquist et al., 2009). However, a comparison between brachinites and IAB irons utilizing nucleosynthetic isotope anomalies (Mo systematics) shows them to be unrelated (se diagrams below).
(left) Kruijer et al., PNAS, vol. 114, #26, p. 6713 (2017 open accesslink),
'Age of Jupiter inferred from the distinct genetics and formation times of meteorites' (http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1704461114)
(right) Budde et al., 49th LPSC, #2353 (2018)
The Reid 013 meteorite has experienced significant terrestrial weathering and contains 3.8 vol% secondary alteration products (Crossley et al., 2020). The photo above shows a 1.3 g slice of Reid 013, while the reverse is shown below.