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Multiple generations of grain aggregation in different environments preceded solar system body formation

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Title: Multiple generations of grain aggregation in different environments preceded solar system body formation
Authors: Ishii, Hope A.
Bradley, John P.
Bechtel, Hans A.
Brownlee, Donald E.
Bustillo, Karen C.
show 4 moreCiston, James
Cuzzi, Jeffrey N.
Floss, Christine
Joswiak, David J.

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Issue Date: 11 Jun 2018
Publisher: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Abstract: The solar system formed from interstellar dust and gas in a molecular cloud. Astronomical observations show that typical interstellar dust consists of amorphous (a-) silicate and organic carbon. Bona fide physical samples for laboratory studies would yield unprecedented insight about solar system formation, but they were largely destroyed. The most likely repositories of surviving presolar dust are the least altered extraterrestrial materials, interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) with probable cometary origins. Cometary IDPs contain abundant submicron a-silicate grains called GEMS, believed to be carbon-free. Some have detectable isotopically anomalous a-silicate components from other stars, proving they are preserved dust inherited from the interstellar medium. However, it is debated whether the majority of GEMS predate the solar system or formed in the solar nebula by condensation of high-temperature (>1300K) gas. Here, we map IDP compositions with single nanometer-scale resolution and find that GEMS contain organic carbon. Mapping reveals two generations of grain aggregation, the key process in growth from dust grains to planetesimals, mediated by carbon. GEMS grains, some with a-silicate subgrains mantled by organic carbon, comprise the earliest generation of aggregates. These aggregates (and other grains) are encapsulated in lower density organic carbon matrix, indicating a second generation of aggregation. Since this organic carbon thermally decomposes above ~450K, GEMS cannot have accreted in the hot solar nebula and formed, instead, in the cold presolar molecular cloud and/or outer protoplanetary disk. We suggest that GEMS are consistent with surviving interstellar dust, condensed in situ, and cycled through multiple molecular clouds.
Description: Manuscript submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
Sponsor: Portions of this work were performed at the Molecular Foundry and the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which are supported by the Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. HAI acknowledges funding by NASA’s Laboratory Analysis of Returned Samples and Emerging Worlds Programs (NNX14AH86G and NNX16AK41G). JPB acknowledges funding by NASA’s Cosmochemistry Program (NNX14AI39G). CF acknowledges funding by NASA’s Cosmochemistry Program (NNX14AG25G).
Pages/Duration: 26
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720167115
Rights: This is a post-print version. Published article is open access and available at
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