Meteorites represent the only samples available for study on Earth of a number of planetary bodies. The minerals within meteorites therefore hold the key to addressing numerous questions about our solar system. Of particular interest is the Ca-phosphate mineral merrillite, the anhydrous end-member of the merrillite–whitlockite solid solution series. For example, the anhydrous nature of merrillite in Martian meteorites has been interpreted as evidence of water-limited late-stage Martian melts. However, recent research on apatite in the same meteorites suggests higher water content in melts. One complication of using meteorites rather than direct samples is the shock compression all meteorites have experienced, which can alter meteorite mineralogy. Here we show whitlockite transformation into merrillite by shock-compression levels relevant to meteorites, including Martian meteorites. The results open the possibility that at least part of meteoritic merrillite may have originally been H +-bearing whitlockite with implications for interpreting meteorites and the need for future sample return.
Quantifying the amount of water in meteorites remains challenging, with minerals the key to understanding water contents. Here, Adcock et al. perform shock experiments on H +-bearing whitlockite demonstrating that it may transform into anhydrous merrillite, which is commonly found in Martian meteorites.