Novel Experimental Simulations of the Atmospheric Injection of Meteoric Metals

J. C. Gómez Martín, D. L. Bones, J. D. Carrillo-Sánchez, A. D. James, J. M. Trigo-Rodríguez, B. Fegley Jr., and J. M. C. Plane

The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 836, Number 2
Published February 23, 2017


“A newly developed laboratory, Meteoric Ablation Simulator (MASI), is used to test model predictions of the atmospheric ablation of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) with experimental Na, Fe, and Ca vaporization profiles. MASI is the first laboratory setup capable of performing time-resolved atmospheric ablation simulations, by means of precision resistive heating and atomic laser-induced fluorescence detection. Experiments using meteoritic IDP analogues show that at least three mineral phases (Na-rich plagioclase, metal sulfide, and Mg-rich silicate) are required to explain the observed appearance temperatures of the vaporized elements. Low melting temperatures of Na-rich plagioclase and metal sulfide, compared to silicate grains, preclude equilibration of all the elemental constituents in a single melt. The phase-change process of distinct mineral components determines the way in which Na and Fe evaporate. Ca evaporation is dependent on particle size and on the initial composition of the molten silicate. Measured vaporized fractions of Na, Fe, and Ca as a function of particle size and speed confirm differential ablation (i.e., the most volatile elements such as Na ablate first, followed by the main constituents Fe, Mg, and Si, and finally the most refractory elements such as Ca). The Chemical Ablation Model (CABMOD) provides a reasonable approximation to this effect based on chemical fractionation of a molten silicate in thermodynamic equilibrium, even though the compositional and geometric description of IDPs is simplistic. Improvements in the model are required in order to better reproduce the specific shape of the elemental ablation profiles.”