Neutron-capture 36Cl, 41Ca, 36Ar, and 150Sm in large chondrites: evidence for high fluences of thermalized neutrons

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We have measured significant concentrations of 36Cl, 41Ca, 36Ar from decay of 36Cl, and 150Sm produced from the capture of thermalized neutrons in the large Chico L6 chondrite. Activities of 36Cl and 41Ca, corrected for a high-energy spallogenic component and a terrestrial age of ∼50 ka, give average neutron-capture production rates of 208 atoms/min/g-Cl and 1525 atoms/min/kg-Ca, which correspond to thermal neutron (n) fluxes of 6.2 n/cm2/s and 4.3 n/cm2/s, respectively. If sustained for the ∼65 Ma single-stage, cosmic ray exposure age of Chico, these values correspond to thermal neutron fluences of ∼1.3×1016 and 0.8 × 1016 n/cm2 for 36Cl and 41Ca, respectively. Stepwise temperature extraction of Ar in Chico impact melt shows 36Ar/38Ar ratios as large as ∼9. The correlation of high 36Ar/38Ar with high Cl/Ca phases in neutron-irradiated Chico indicates that the excess 36Ar above that expected from spallation is due to decay of neutron-produced 36Cl. Excess 36Ar in Chico requires a thermal neutron fluence of 0.9–1.7×1016 n/cm2. Decreases in 149Sm/152Sm due to neutron-capture by 149Sm correlate with increases in 150Sm/152Sm for three samples of Chico, and one of the Torino H-chondrite. The 0.08% decrease in 149Sm/152Sm shown by Chico corresponds to a neutron fluence of 1.23×1016 n/cm2. This fluence derived from Sm considers capture of epithermal neutrons and effects of chemical composition on the neutron energy distribution. Excess 36Ar identified in the Arapahoe, Bruderheim, and Torino chondrites and the Shallowater aubrite suggest exposure to neutron fluences of ∼0.2–0.6×1016 n/cm2. Depletion of 149Sm in Torino and the LEW86010 angrite suggest neutron fluences of 0.8×1016 n/cm2 and 0.25×1016 n/cm2, respectively. Neutron fluences of ∼1016 n/cm2 in Chico are almost as large as those previously observed for some lunar soils. Consideration of exposure ages suggests that the neutron flux in Chico may have been greater than that in many lunar soils. Neutron-capture effects, although seldom reported, may be common for large meteorites and could affect calculation of exposure ages based on cosmogenic Ar. Combining measurements of radioactive and stable species produced from neutron-capture has the potential for identifying large meteorites with complex exposure histories. © 2021 American Geophysical Union
Decay, Thermal neutrons, Neutron reactions, Epithermal neutrons, Chemical composition, Energy spectra, Neutron flux, Chondrites, Meteorites
Bogard, D. D., Nyquist, L. E., Bansal, B. M., Garrison, D. H., Wiesmann, H., Herzog, G. F., Albrecht, A. A., Vogt, S., & Klein, J. (1995). Neutron-capture 36Cl, 41Ca, 36Ar, and 150Sm in large chondrites: evidence for high fluences of thermalized neutrons. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 100(E5), 9401-9416. doi:10.1029/95JE00663