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Geochemical Journal
Geochemical Journal An open access journal for geochemistry
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Constraints on mechanisms of chondrule formation from chondrule precursors and chronology of transient heating events in the protoplanetary disk

Alexander N. Krot, Kazuhide Nagashima
Geochemical Journal, Vol. 51, No. 1, P. 45-68, 2017


The mineralogy, petrography, and oxygen-isotope compositions of porphyritic chondrules—dominant chondrule type in most chondrite groups—suggest formation by incomplete melting of isotopically diverse precursors during localized transient heating events in dust-rich regions of the protoplanetary disk characterized by 16O-poor compositions (Δ17Odust+gas ~ –7‰ to +4‰) relative to the inferred Sun’s value (Δ17O ~ –28 ± 2‰). The chondrule precursors included Ca,Al-rich inclusions (CAIs), amoeboid olivine aggregates (AOAs), chondrules of earlier generations, fine-grained matrix-like material, and possibly fragments of pre-existing planetesimals. Like porphyritic chondrules, igneous CAIs formed by melting of isotopically diverse precursors during transient heating events, but in an isotopically distinct, solar-like reservoir of the protoplanetary disk (Δ17Odust+gas ~ –24‰), probably near the protoSun. Based on a narrow range of the initial 26Al/27Al ratios inferred from the internal Al-Mg isochrons in igneous CAIs, their melting started at the very beginning of Solar System formation (t0), defined by the CV CAIs with U-corrected Pb-Pb age of 4567.3 ± 0.16 Ma and the canonical 26Al/27Al ratio of (5.25 ± 0.02) × 10–5, and lasted at least 0.3 Ma. The U-corrected Pb-Pb absolute and 26Al-26Mg relative ages of porphyritic chondrules from type 3 ordinary, CO, CV, and CR carbonaceous chondrites (assuming uniform distribution of 26Al in the disk at the canonical level) suggest chondrule formation started at t0 and lasted for about 4 Ma. These observations may preclude formation of the majority of porphyritic chondrules by splashing of differentiated planetesimals and by collisions between planetesimals; instead, they are consistent with melting of dust balls by bow shocks or magnetized turbulence in the disk. Some porphyritic chondrules in equilibrated (petrologic type 4–6) ordinary chondrites contain relict fragments of coarse-grained chromite, ilmenite, phosphates, and albitic plagioclase. The similar mineral assemblage is commonly observed in type 4–6 ordinary chondrites, but is absent in type 3 chondrites, suggesting these chondrules formed by incomplete melting of thermally metamorphosed ordinary chondrite material, possibly by impacts. The CB metal-rich carbonaceous chondrites contain exclusively magnesian non-porphyritic chondrules crystallized from complete melts. These chondrules formed in a gas-melt plume generated by a hypervelocity (≥20 km/s) collision between planetesimals ~4.8 Ma after t0 in a transition or a debris disk. One of the colliding bodies was probably differentiated. The CH metal-rich carbonaceous chondrites contain chondrules formed by different mechanisms. The magnesian non-porphyritic chondrules formed in the CB impact plume ~4.8 Ma after t0. The chemically diverse (magnesian, ferroan, and Al-rich) porphyritic chondrules formed by incomplete melting of isotopically diverse precursors in the protoplanetary disk, most likely prior the CB impact plume event. We conclude that there are multiple mechanisms of chondrule formation that operated over the entire life-time of the disk.


chondrules, refractory inclusions, chondrule precursors, transient heating

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