Concordant Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Ar-Ar ages for Northwest Africa 1460: A 346 Ma old basaltic shergottite related to “lherzolitic” shergottites
Multiple lines of evidence show that the Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Ar-Ar isotopic systems individually give robust crystallization ages for basaltic (or diabasic) shergottite Northwest Africa (NWA) 1460. In contrast to other shergottites, NWA 1460 exhibits minimal evidence of excess 40Ar, thus allowing an unambiguous determination of its Ar-Ar age. The concordant Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, and Ar-Ar results for NWA 1460 define its crystallization age to be 346 ± 17 Ma (2 σ). In combination with petrographic and trace element data for this specimen and paired meteorite NWA 480, these results strongly refute the suggestion by others that the shergottites are ∼4.1 Ga old. Current crystallization and cosmic-ray exposure (CRE) age data permit identification of a maximum of nine ejection events for Martian meteorites (numbering more than 50 unpaired specimens as of 2008) and plausibly as few as five such events. Although recent high resolution imaging of the Martian surface has identified limited areas of sparsely cratered terrains, the meteorite data suggest that either these areas are representative of larger areas from which the meteorites might come, or that the cratering chronology needs recalibration. Time-averaged 87Rb/ 86Sr = 0.16 for the mantle source of the parent magma of NWA 1460/480 over the ∼4.56 Ga age of the planet is consistent with previously estimated values for bulk silicate Mars in the range 0.13-0.16, and similar to values of ∼0.18 for the "lherzolitic" shergottites. Initial ∊Nd for NWA 1460/480 at 350 ± 16 Ma ago was +10.6 ± 0.5, which implies a time-averaged 147Sm/ 144Nd of 0.217 in the Martian mantle prior to mafic melt extraction, similar to values of 0.211-0.216 for the "lherzolitic" shergottites. These time-averaged values do not imply a simple two-stage mantle/melt evolution, but must result from multiple episodes of melt extractions from the source regions. Much higher "late-stage" ∊Nd values for the depleted shergottites imply similar processes carried to a greater degree. Thus, NWA 1460/480, the "lherzolitic" shergottites and perhaps EET 79001 give the best (albeit imperfect) estimate of the Sr- and Nd-isotopic characteristics of bulk silicate Mars.