Spatial distribution of carbon dust in the early solar nebula and the carbon content of planetesimalsOPEN ACCESS 

Hans-Peter Gail, Mario Trieloff

Volume 606, October 2017


“Context. A high fraction of carbon bound in solid carbonaceous material is observed to exist in bodies formed in the cold outskirts of the solar nebula, while bodies in the region of terrestrial planets contain only very small mass fractions of carbon. Most of the solid carbon component is lost and converted into CO during the spiral-in of matter as the Sun accretes matter from the solar nebula.

Aims. We study the fate of the carbonaceous material that entered the proto-solar disc by comparing the initial carbon abundance in primitive solar system material and the abundance of residual carbon in planetesimals and planets in the asteroid belt and the terrestrial planet region.

Methods. We constructed a model for the composition of the pristine carbonaceous material from observational data on the composition of the dust component in comets and of interplanetary dust particles and from published data on pyrolysis experiments. This material entered the inner parts of the solar nebula during the course of the build-up of the proto-sun by accreting matter from the proto-stellar disc. Based on a one-zone evolution model of the solar nebula, we studied the pyrolysis of the refractory and volatile organic component and the concomitant release of hydrocarbons of high molecular weight under quiescent conditions of disc evolution, while matter migrates into the central parts of the solar nebula. We also studied the decomposition and oxidation of the carbonaceous material during violent flash heating events, which are thought to be responsible for the formation of chondrules. To do this, we calculated pyrolysis and oxidation of the carbonaceous material in temperature spikes that were modeled according to cosmochemical models for the temperature history of chondrules.

Results. We find that the complex hydrocarbon components of the carbonaceous material are removed from the disc matter in the temperature range between 250 and 400 K, but the amorphous carbon component survives to temperatures of 1200 K. Without efficient carbon destruction during flash-heating associated with chondrule formation, the carbon abundance of terrestrial planets, except for Mercury, would be of several percent and not as low as it is found in cosmochemical studies. Chondrule formation seems to be a crucial process for the carbon-poor composition of the material of terrestrial planets. ”