In-situ phosphate U-Pb ages of the L chondrites

Craig Robert Walton*, Heejin Jeon, Ana Černok, Auriol S.P. Rae, Ioannis Baziotis, Fengzai Tang, Venkata S.C. Kuppili, Ludovic Ferrière, James Darling, Sen Hu, Martin J. Whitehouse, Mahesh Anand, Oliver Shorttle

*Corresponding author for this work

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The thermal history of asteroids is recorded by the radioisotopic ages of meteorites that derive from them. Radioisotopic ages may date a number of events, such as the cooling of a parent body during waning radiogenic metamorphism, rapid cooling experienced upon parent body break-up, and/or subsequent collision-induced reheating of material. However, sampling statistics for meteorite radioisotope ages are currently relatively low and most are derived from analyses of bulk material, therefore lacking the in-situ microtextural context that aids in distinguishing collisional events. Here, we present new in-situ apatite U-Pb ages for nine L chondrite meteorites using secondary ionisation mass spectrometry. Our measurements greatly expand the L chondrite phosphate U-Pb age record and provide evidence for distinct stages in the thermal evolution of the L chondrite parent asteroid, including: early collisions driving parent body fragmentation- and/or exhumation-associated cooling at > 4530 Ma; onion-shell-style cooling with waning radiogenic metamorphism until 4500 Ma; late collisional reheating from 4480–4460 Ma; parent body break-up at 474± 22 Ma; and recent ejection events within several 10s of Myr of present day. We show that meteorite shock stage correlates with upper intercept age but is uncorrelated with lower intercept age. This outcome links the upper intercept ages alone to the preserved high-energy impact-related features in strongly shocked meteorites, which has important implications for our interpretation of the L chondrite U-Pb record. We see no evidence in our record for collisional episodes between 3000–4400 Ma, i.e., the Late Heavy Bombardment. Our upper intercept age record hints that collision rates changed as a result of some dynamical instability at 4460–4480 Ma, which may have strongly depleted the main asteroid belt, and/or that L asteroid physical structure changed such that the shock metamorphic response to collisions was muted after this time, e.g., by the formation of weak rubble pile bodies. L chondrite phosphate U-Pb ages provide evidence for a heterogeneous early and shared late (less than 500 Ma) thermal history for the majority of L chondrite meteorites falling to Earth today. From this observation, we infer that most L chondrites derive from a single parent asteroid (in existence from around 4500–4440 Ma to 474± 22 Ma), which has since been disturbed to create an asteroid family. Our record of meteorite U-Pb ages traces out the thermal and dynamical evolution of the L chondrite asteroid. These observations can be used in future to benchmark dynamical models of Solar System evolution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date18 Jul 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 18 Jul 2023


  • Early Solar System
  • Collision history
  • Bombardment
  • L chondrites
  • Meteorites
  • U-Pb geochronology
  • Planetary geology
  • planetary science

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