Chondrules as direct thermochemical sensors of solar protoplanetary disk gas

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Science Advances  11 Jul 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 7, eaar3321
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3321


Chondrules, millimeter-sized igneous spherules comprising the major component of most chondritic meteorites, formed during the first 4 million to 5 million years of the evolution of the solar protoplanetary disk and, therefore, can potentially offer important constraints on the conditions in the disk, provided that the processes that led to their formation can be understood. High-resolution cathodoluminescence (CL) survey of chondrules from various chondrite groups revealed changes of CL activator concentrations of magnesium-rich olivines. We show that these overlooked internal zoning structures provide evidence for high-temperature gas-assisted near-equilibrium epitaxial growth of olivines during chondrule formation. We argue that this interaction with the surrounding gas, rather than various cooling histories, defined chondrule composition and texture. Chondrules are thus direct thermochemical sensors of their high-temperature gaseous environment, and high partial pressures of gaseous Mg and SiO are required in their solar protoplanetary disk-forming region to maintain olivine saturation in chondrules. The inferred crystallization of olivines, from stable melts approaching equilibrium with the surrounding gas, provides an explanation for the notable absence of large and systematic isotopic fractionations in chondrules.

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