Relationships between type I and type II chondrules: Implications on chondrule formation processes

Johan Villeneuve, Guy Libourel, Camille Soulié

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
available online 4 April 2015


In unequilibrated chondrites, the ferromagnesian silicates in chondrules exhibit wide ranges of mg# = Mg/(Mg + Fe), allowing to sub-divide porphyritic chondrules into either type I (mg# > 0.9) or type II (mg# < 0.9). Although both chondrule types formed under oxidizing conditions relative to the canonical solar nebula, it is generally inferred that type II chondrules formed in more oxidizing conditions than type I. In order to check whether this redox difference was established during chondrule formation, or reflects differences in their precursors, we have undertaken a set of experiments aimed at heating type I olivine-rich (A) chondrule proxy, i.e. forsterite + Fe metal + Ca-Mg-Si-Al glass mixtures, under oxidizing conditions. We show that high temperature (isothermal) oxidation of type IA-like assemblages is a very efficient and rapid process (e.g., few tens of minutes) to form textures similar to type IIA chondrules. Due to the rapid dissolution of Fe metal blebs, a FeO increase in the melt and in combination with the dissolution of magnesian olivine allows the melt to reach ferroan olivine saturation. Crystallization of ferroan olivine occurs either as new crystal in the mesostasis or as overgrowths on the remaining unresorbed forsterite grains (relicts). Interruption of this process at any time before its completion by rapid cooling allows to reproduce the whole range of textures and chemical diversity observed in type A chondrules, i.e., from type I to type II. Several implications on chondrule formation processes can be inferred from the presented experiments. Type I chondrules or fragments of type I chondrules are very likely the main precursor material involved in the formation of most type II chondrules. Formation of porphyritic olivine type II chondrules is very likely the result of processes generating crystal growth by chemical disequilibrium at high temperature rather than processes generating crystallization only by cooling rates. This questions the reliability of chondrule thermal history (e.g., cooling rate values) hitherto inferred for producing porphyritic textures from dynamical cooling rate experiments only. Type A chondrule formation can be a very fast process. After periods of sub-isothermal heating or slow cooling (< 50 K/h) as short as several tens of minutes and no longer than few hundreds of minutes at 1500 -1800°C, type A chondrules terminates their formation by a fast cooling (> 103-104 K/h) in order to preserve their glassy mesostasis. Such inferred thermal history being at odds with nebular shock models, we thus advocate that impacts on planetesimals causing rapid melting and vaporization may provide the high density and highly volatile-enriched gaseous environments required to form chondrules. In this scenario, chondrules and their diversity should result from various degrees of interaction of the ejected fragments with the impact vapor plume; the most oxidizing conditions recorded in type IIA chondrules being very likely the closest to those imposed by the impact vapor plume.