Abstract

We show experimental evidence that the zoned Mg-Fe-Ca carbonates, magnetite, and Fe sulfides in Martian meteorite ALH84001 may have formed by simple, inorganic processes. Chemically zoned carbonate globules and Fe sulfides were rapidly precipitated under low-temperature (150 °C), hydrothermal, and non-equilibrium conditions from multiple fluxes of Ca-Mg-Fe-CO2-S-H2O solutions that have different compositions. Chemically pure, single-domain, defect-free magnetite crystals were formed by subsequent decomposition of previously precipitated Fe-rich carbonates by brief heating to 470 °C. The sequence of hydrothermal precipitation of carbonates from flowing CO2-rich waters followed by a transient thermal event provides an inorganic explanation for the formation of the carbonate globules, magnetite, and Fe sulfides in ALH84001. In separate experiments, kinetically controlled 13C enrichment was observed in synthetic carbonates that is similar in magnitude to the 13C enrichment in ALH84001 carbonates.

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