Iron sulfide mineral in which the ratio of iron to sulfur atoms is somewhat variable but is always slightly less than 1. It commonly is found in association with other sulfides. The variety troilite, with a composition near that of iron sulfide (FeS), is an important constituent of some meteorites.
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Pyrrhotite is an unusual iron sulfide mineral with a variable iron content: Fe(1-x)S (x = 0 to 0.2). The FeS endmember is known as troilite. Also called magnetic pyrite because the color is similar to pyrite and it is weakly magnetic, the magnetism increases as the iron content decreases.
Pyrrhotite is odd also because it has two crystal symmetries. When pyrrhotite is high in iron and the formula is closer to true FeS the structure is hexagonal. But, when it is low in iron, the structure is monoclinic. Both symmetries occur together in the same specimen.
The name is derived from Greek pyrrhos, flame-colored.
Pyrrhotite is a rather common trace constituent of igneous rocks. It occurs as segregation deposits from mafic igneous rocks associated with pentlandite, chalcopyrite and other sulfides. It also occurs in pegmatites and in contact metamorphic zones.
The troilite endmember, though only rarely encountered in the Earth's crust, is found in many meteorites. One iron meteorite, Mundrabilla, contains 25 to 35 volume percent troilite.
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