Ténéréite (evolved)*
or Tafassite Clan
(Eucrite in MetBull 84 [2000], Achondrite, ungrouped [2006])
standby for nwa 011 photo

standby for nwa 011 photo
standby for nwa 011 photo
Purchased 1999
31° 20' N., 4° 20' W.

Several small stones were purchased from a man in Rissani, Morocco by a Russian team during a meteorite expedition. The find location was later reported to be Hamada de Boudnib in southeast Morocco. Among these stones was a relatively fresh 40 g meteorite designated NWA 011, which was analyzed and classified at the Vernadsky Institute in Moscow by S. Afanasiev and M. Ivanova. Initially, the meteorite was classified as a highly metamorphosed, unbrecciated, noncumulate eucrite with Fe/Mn ratios of pyroxene significantly higher (~65) than other eucrites (30–50) (Afanasiev et al., 2000). A second stone weighing 137 g, NWA 2400, was determined to be most likely paired with NWA 011 (Bunch and Wittke, NAU; Irving and Kuehner, UWS; D. Rumble III, CIW). Further searches of the area have resulted in the recovery of more stones that are considered to be paired with NWA 011, including NWA 2976 (219 g), and NWA 4901 (24 g). One stone currently under analysis weighs 95 g, while another stone represents the largest known member of this pairing group—a 530 g stone designated NWA 4587, for which a 360°, 3-D image has been skillfully constructed by G. Hupé. Additionally, NWA 5644 (200 g) NWA 7129 (50 g; excellent photos here), NWA 8545 (57.8 g), and NWA 13274 (255.5 g) have been classified as pairings. A photo of another sizable mass with rare remnant fusion crust was shared by A. Habibi.

*Previously, Floss (2000) and Patzer et al. (2003 #1352, 2004) proposed that the acapulcoite/lodranite meteorites should be divided based on metamorphic stage:
  1. primitive acapulcoites: near-chondritic (Se >12–13 ppm [degree of sulfide extraction])
  2. typical acapulcoites: Fe–Ni–FeS melting and some loss of sulfide (Se ~5–12 ppm)
  3. transitional acapulcoites: sulfide depletion and some loss of plagioclase (Se <5 ppm)
  4. lodranites: sulfide, metal, and plagioclase depletion (K <200 ppm [degree of plagioclase extraction])
  5. enriched acapulcoites (addition of feldspar-rich melt component)
A similar distinction could be made among the winonaites in our collections, as well as among members of the newly proposed group ténéréites (Agee et al., 2020). One of the most "primitive" members identified in this new group is NWA 7317, which contains relict chondrules comparable to a petrologic type 6 chondrite. However, most ténéréites have experienced more extensive thermal metamorphism involving incipient melting and now exhibit highly recrystallized textures, characteristics analogous to the "typical" acapulcoites. Metamorphic progression in other ténéréites involved higher degrees of partial melting and even separation of a basaltic fraction (e.g., NWA 011 pairing group). Samples representing such an advanced metamorphic stage are known as lodranites in the acapulcoite/lodranite metamorphic sequence, while the term "evolved" could be used to represent a similar metamorphic stage in the ténéréite group.

The cutting and distribution of NWA 011 is well documented (Inoue, Meteorite, August 2002). A 22.236 g end section that was offered for sale at the 2000 Denver Show attracted the attention of S. Inoue of Hori Mineralogy Ltd., who eventually purchased the piece on behalf of A. Yamaguchi (National Institute of Polar Research) and himself. This piece was cut into two sections: 17.773 g was distributed to NIPR and the remaining 4.018 g slice was retained by HML. The other end section, which weighs 11.4 g, is curated at Vernadsky Institute. The remainder of the NWA 011 material, representing ~4–5 g, is included in the original slice.

Northwest Africa 011 is primarily composed of coarse-grained pyroxene (58.5 vol%, as pigeonite and augite) in fine-grained plagioclase (39.6 vol%, as bytownite), with minor quartz (0.7 vol%), Ca-phosphate (0.5 vol% as merrillite and chlorapatite), Fe-rich olivine (trace), and opaques (0.7 vol%) including ilmenite, troilite, Ti-rich chromite, and ulvöspinel). The presence of igneous-zoned plagioclase laths suggests a complicated petrogenesis, in accord with a history that includes low degrees of fractional crystallization of a partial melt, brecciation and recrystallization possibly in an impact-melt event (Yamaguchi, 2001), and culminating with a period of annealing. Subsequent to this, another heating event occurred, during which time olivine grains formed, and this stage was followed by rapid cooling likely due to impact excavation (Sugiura and Yamaguchi, 2007). During the first thermal event, Ca-phosphates and ilmenite were mobilized from the original mesostasis into the plagioclase assemblages of the recrystallized rock. Similarly, some REE homogenization occurred within pyroxenes. This history of thermal metamorphism presumed for NWA 011 is almost identical to that proposed for the highly metamorphosed eucrites EET 90020 and Y-86763, and the ungrouped eucrite-like Ibitira, and it suggests that they were similar early crustal rocks on their respective parent bodies.

A consortium study was carried out by a number of researchers to measure the O-isotopes, elemental abundances, and CRE age for NWA 011. The plot on an oxygen 3-isotope diagram is a significant distance from that of the eucrites and is more similar to the CR chondrites (Promprated et al., 2003). It also plots near the acapulcoite–lodranite clan; however, elemental abundances in NWA 011 are likely the result of fractional crystallization rather than the partial melting processes which characterize the acapulcoite–lodranite clan (Floss et al., 2005). Oxygen isotope mixing models suggest that a close compositional match can be obtained by blending components of Allende with either H or LL chondrite material (Boesenberg, 2003). Such a model also calls for the sequestration of a large amount of metal and olivine into the core, probably more than occurred on the eucrite parent body.

Additional constraints on the origin of this meteorite have been established through studies of the Cr-isotopic systematics. The resulting ε54Cr value of +1.35 (±0.11) measured by Bogdanovski and Lugmair (2004) resolves NWA 011 from the acapulcoite–lodranite clan (ε54Cr = –0.75; Göpel and Birck, 2010), a meteorite group for which discrimination through the use of O-isotopic values had not been attained. Warren (2011) determined that the isotope signatures of Δ17O, ε54Cr, ε50Ti, and ε62Ni can be utilized to resolve carbonaceous from non-carbonaceous meteorites; the carbonaceous meteorites have positive values for all of these elements, while the non-carbonaceous meteorites have negative values. Examples of coupled 50Ti diagrams are shown below to demonstrate the separation between carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous meteorites; it can be seen that NWA 011 plots in the carbonaceous field.

Comparison of Titanium and Oxygen Isotope Compositions
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Diagram credit: P. Warren, GCA, vol. 75, fig. EA-3 (2011)
'Stable isotopes and the noncarbonaceous derivation of ureilites, in common with nearly all differentiated planetary materials'

standby for carbonaceous vs. non-carbonaceous diagram

In its bulk composition, NWA 011 is significantly different from typical eucrites in the following ways: it has a higher P content, a higher siderophile element content, a higher mean Fe/Mn ratio in pyroxene (~65 for NWA 011 vs. ~28–40 for typical eucrites), a lower Sc content, and a higher abundance of platinum group elements. In addition, it has an excess of 50Ti and 54Cr (Trinquier et al., 2007). All of these features suggest a more oxidized source than that for typical eucrites (Korotchantseva et al., 2003; Isa et al., 2008). Based on elemental abundance patterns, the PGE enrichment as well as the higher abundances of other siderophile elements has been conjectured to be the result of an impact mixing event on the NWA 011 parent body involving a group-IVB iron projectile (Yamaguchi et al., 2002). In addition, the trace element contents of NWA 011 are distinct from those of other eucrites—it has a higher Sr content, a lower REE content in merrillite, and a smaller Eu anomaly in pyroxene and phosphate (Floss et al., 2004). The Th/U ratio of NWA 011 is significantly lower than that of other basaltic meteorites such as eucrites and angrites. In addition, a positive Ce anomaly in merrillite is consistent with formation in an oxidizing environment.

The Mn–Cr isotope systematics were studied by Bogdanovski and Lugmair (2003, 2004), and they found significant differences (much lower abundances of each) between NWA 011 and the HED group, providing further persuasive evidence against a genetic relationship. Interestingly, their 54Cr data are similar to those from CR carbonaceous chondrites, indicating a strong probability for an origin on a differentiated CR-like carbonaceous chondrite parent body. Continued research on this front 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 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. It is apparent in the diagrams below that the paired stones NWA 011 and 2976 plot within the CR chondrite field. In addition to the Cr data, the enriched Fe content of NWA 011 also excludes the planet Mercury as the parental source. Moreover, by utilizing the Mn–Cr data they were able to calculate the time at which differentiation occurred and the parental source reservoir of NWA 011 was formed, which occurred ~4.563 b.y. ago.

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Diagram credit: Bunch et al., 36th LPSC, #2308 (2005)

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Diagram credit: Sanborn et al., 45th LPSC, #2032 (2014)

17O vs. ε54Cr and ε50Ti for CR-like Achondrites
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Diagrams credit: Sanborn et al., GCA, vol. 245, pp. 577–596 (2019)
'Carbonaceous Achondrites Northwest Africa 6704/6693: Milestones for Early Solar System Chronology and Genealogy'

In an isotope systematics study, Sugiura and Yamaguchi (2007) reported the Mn–Cr age for NWA 011 as 4.5623 (±0.0026) b.y., while the Al–Mg age was calculated to be 4.5627 (±0.0003) b.y. Other Al–Mg age results include 4.5633 (±0.0005) b.y., determined by Schiller et al. (2010), and 4.56310 (±0.00038) b.y., determined by Bouvier et al. (2011) for the paired meteorite NWA 2976. The Sugiura and Yamaguchi (2007) ages are concordant with each other, and likely represent the meteorite's crystallization age 3–5 m.y. after CAI formation; such an early crystallization would be consistent with an asteroidal origin rather than a planetary origin (Scott et al., 2009). In addition, these ages are nearly identical to the ages calculated for the oldest eucrites and the quenched angrites such as Sahara 99555. The Sm–Nd age of NWA 011, calculated to be 4.46 (±0.04) b.y. (Nyquist et al., 2003), is younger than the calculated Mn–Cr and Al–Mg ages, possibly reflecting late metamorphic resetting. A more precise crystallization age was calculated by Bouvier et al. (2011) utilizing the paired NWA 2976. Employing the 238U/235U value of 137.751, they calculated the absolute Pb–Pb age to be 4.56289 (±0.00059) b.y. This age is concordant with the Al–Mg age anchored to the D'Orbigny angrite and a Type B CAI from the CV3 chondrite NWA 2364. This likely represents the crystallization age of the basaltic meteorite in the crust of this parent asteroid. Utilizing the NWA 4587 pairing, the accretion age for the NWA 011 parent body was found to be 4.5636 (±0007) b.y. or 3.7 (±0.7) m.y. after CAIs (Amelin et al., 2019). In addition, Huyskens et al. (2019) determined the Al–Mg-based absolute age (anchored to D'Orbigny) for NWA 4587 to be 4.56376 (±00036) b.y. Their compiled diagram incorporating multiple chronometric system ages for four different achondrite parent bodies that accreted in the CR reservoir over a similar timeframe is shown below.

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Diagram credit: Huyskens et al., 50th LPSC, #2736 (2019)

Further studies have been conducted by Sanborn et al. (2018) of new anomalous ungrouped meteorites recovered in Northwest Africa. Utilizing a coupled Δ17O vs. ε54Cr diagram, they demonstrated that NWA 011 and pairings, NWA 6704 and pairings, and NWA 6962/7680 all plot within the CR/CH carbonaceous chondrite field represented by CR2 Renazzo and CH3 NWA 2210, which suggests that a genetic relationship exists among them (see diagram below).

Chromium vs. Oxygen-isotope Plot
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Diagram credit: Sanborn et al., 49th LPSC, #2296 (2018)

Moreover, Sanborn et al. (2018) determined that the absolute Mn– Cr age (anchored to D'Orbigny) calculated for NWA 6962/7680 (4.56376 [±0.00176] b.y.) is concordant with the ages calculated for NWA 011 and NWA 6704. It has been proposed by many investigators that a large (~400 km diameter) differentiated CR parent body formed in the early history of the Solar System and subsequently experienced a collisional disruption. For more information pertaining to this scenario, see the LPSC abstract '"Primitive" and igneous achondrites related to the large and differentiated CR parent body' by Bunch et al. (2005), the MetSoc abstract 'Tafassasset and Primitive Achondrites: Records of Planetary Differentiation' by Nehru et al. (2014), and the LPSC abstract 'Collisional Disruption of a Layered, Differentiated CR Parent Body Containing Metamorphic and Igneous Lithologies Overlain by a Chondrite Veneer' by Irving et al. (2014).

It was asserted by Agee et al. (2020) that the similarity in O, Cr, and Ti values among the CR2 carbonaceous chondrites and these ungrouped equilibrated meteorites is coincidental, and that significant geochemical differences (e.g., olivine Fa content and Fe/Mn) and other discrepancies (e.g., petrologic type discontinuity) exist that make a common parent body untenable. They contend that the thermally metamorphosed CC meteorites represent a unique group for which they propose the name 'ténéréites' (see list and diagrams below).

standby for ténéréite oxygen isotopes diagram
Diagram credit: Agee et al., 51st LPSC, #2292 (2020)
'Northwest Africa 12869: Primitive Achondrite From the CR2 Parent Body or Member of a New Meteorite Group?'

standby for ténéréite fa vs fe/mn diagram
Diagram credit: Dr. Carl Agee, IOM Seminar Sept 1, 2020
'Dr. Carl Agee: Some New Meteorites from the Sahara Desert'

Ma et al. (2021, 2022) and Neumann et al. (2021) investigated the suite of ténéréites, for which they proposed the name 'tafassites'. They employed numerical modeling to constrain the formation and thermal history of the parent body, which they found was most consistent with an accretion age of 0.9 (±0.1) m.y. after CAIs—significantly earlier than that of the CR chondrite parent body at 3–4 m.y. after CAIs. In addition, they determined the diameter of the tafassite parent body to be 200–400 km. Moreover, based on stable isotope systematics and the distinct accretion ages obtained for the NWA 011 and NWA 6704 grouplets of 1.5 and 1.7 m.y. after CAIs, respectively, they argued that these meteorites derive from one or more additional parent bodies associated with a common reservoir (see top diagrams below). At the other end of the lumping–splitting spectrum, Jiang et al. (2021) contend that the CR parent body once comprised all of the meteorites that are isotopically and geochemically similar, composing a now disaggregated, at least partially differentiated body with a metallic core, achondritic mantle, and chondritic crust (see schematic illustration below).

ε54Cr vs. Δ17O for Tafassites and the NWA 011 and NWA 6704 grouplets
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Diagrams credit: Ma et al., Geochemical Perspectives Letters, vol. 23, pp. 33–37, fig. S-13 (2022 open access link)
'Early formation of primitive achondrites in an outer region of the protoplanetary disc'

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Schematic illustration credit: Jiang et al., 84th MetSoc, #6062 (2021)

A more comprehensive investigation of the suite of four ungrouped primitive achondrites (NWA 3250, NWA 11112, NWA 12869, and Tafassasset) was undertaken by Jiang et al (2023) with an expanded team having relevant expertise in Cr and O isotope systematics, Mn–Cr chronometry, nucleosynthetic anomalous isotopes, and geothermometry. Employing advanced petrographic and mineralogical techniques, including high resolution X-ray tomographic microscopy, their analyses led to the conclusion that NWA 3250, NWA 11112, and NWA 12869 compose a grouplet of primitive achondrites that derive from a small parent body (tens of km in diameter) which accreted very early (<1 m.y. after CAIs) from a nebular reservoir that would later produce the CR chondrite parent body. Importantly, they determined that Tafassasset should be removed from inclusion in this grouplet due to significant mineralogical differences in comparison with the other three members (see diagrams below). Therefore, a potential 'tafassite clan' comprised of up to 4 parent bodies, each of which formed early in the CR reservoir, may be represented in our collections as (1) Tafassasset grouplet, (2) Jiang et al. grouplet, (3) NWA 011 basalt grouplet, and (4) NWA 6704 orthopyroxene grouplet.

Triple Oxygen Isotopes for CR-like Primitive Achondrites
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ε54Cr vs. Δ17O for CR-like Primitive Achondrites
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Diagrams credit: Jiang et al., GCA, In Press (2023)
'Tracking and dating incipient melting of a new grouplet of primitive achondrites'

Miller et al. (2021) utilized a coupled ε54Cr vs. Δ17O diagram (see diagram below) to determine the genetic provenance of the ungrouped carbonaceous chondrite AhS 202, which was found as a xenolithic clast in the Almahata Sitta polymict ureilite. Based on its plot, AhS 202 could represent the unmelted chondritic lid surrounding a Ceres-sized (~640–1,800 km-diameter as indicated by evident prograde metamorphism involving the amphibole tremolite [Hamilton et al., 2020; Hamilton et al., 2021]; Dodds et al., 2022 [#2158]) differentiated asteroid, possibly associated with the proposed ténéréite group (Agee et al., 2020). Alternatively, AhS 202 may derive from an asteroid that formed in the CR reservoir and was previously unrepresented in our collections.

ε54Cr vs. Δ17O Diagram for AhS 202
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Diagram credit: Miller et al., 52nd LPSC, #2360 (2021)
'Stalking a Large Carbonaceous Chondrite Asteroid Using ε54Cr–Δ17O
Isotope Systematics of the Unique Xenolith Almahata Sitta 202'

The noble gas data of NWA 011 reveal both a young isochron age of ~800 m.y., which might reflect Ar redistribution and adsorption in this meteorite due to terrestrial weathering effects, and a gas retention age of ~3.2–3.9 b.y., which is not resolvable from that of the HED meteorites (Bogard and Garrison, 2004; Korochantseva et al, 2005). However, some data is consistent with a gas retention isochron as young as ~3.1–3.2 b.y. old, which is later than the Late Heavy Bombardment period as evidenced by most eucrites and the Moon.

An initial CRE age of 22.2 (±3.3) m.y. was calculated for NWA 011, an age which falls within one of the five common breakup events determined for the HED PB (Patzer et al., 2003). Subsequent studies by two other research groups calculated 21Ne-derived and 38Ar-derived CRE ages of ~28–30 m.y. for NWA 011 (Yamaguchi et al., 2002 and Korochantseva et al, 2005), which also fall near an established HED age cluster.

From these and other comparisons, it may be assumed that NWA 011 is an ungrouped basaltic or possibly gabbroic achondrite that originated from a relatively large parent body other than 4 Vesta, which was located in a different region of the solar nebula, and which experienced a similar petrologic history and had a similar mineralogy. Its CR-like O-isotopic composition and similarity to some metamorphosed eucrites suggests an asteroidal origin in the outer Solar System. The possibility of an origin on the ~17 km diameter basaltic asteroid (1459) Magnya, located at ~3.15 AU, was raised by Nyquist et al., 2003, but the Sm–Nd data favor a larger parent body. Other differentiated and disrupted parent bodies have been identified in the central main belt (Bottke et al., 2006). These include the S-type, high-Ca pyroxene asteroids (17) Thetis, (847) Agnia, and (808) Merxia, as well as some possible exposed iron cores such as (16) Psyche and (216) Kleopatra. A very small amount of mantle material would be expected to survive the long journey from this distant region of the asteroid belt. Scott et al. (2009) surmise that the parent asteroids of NWA 011 and other ungrouped basaltic achondrites, along with most of the thousands of other Vesta-like bodies that probably occupied the early asteroid belt, were likely removed from the belt in early Solar System history through gravitational perturbations. Previous to the asteroid's removal, crustal portions may have been ejected to form small ~10 km diameter objects from which unbrecciated samples could subsequently be made available for capture by Earth.

A transmitted light view of a petrographic thin section of the paired stone NWA 2976 can be seen on J. Kashuba's page. The top photo shown above is an enlarged image of a 0.001 g (1 mg) portion of NWA 011 acquired from the first known stone. The other two photos show both the fusion-crusted side and an interior view of a 0.56 g fragment from one of the pairings of this meteorite. My thanks to meteorite procurer extraordinaire Aziz Habibi who kindly contributed this specimen to the DWeir collection.

Thanks to R. A. Langheinrich Meteorites for kindly pursuing the initial sample of this scientifically important meteorite from S. Afanasiev, Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry.