The quasi-universality of chondrule size as a constraint for chondrule formation models

Jacquet E

Volume 232, April 2014, Pages 176–186


Primitive meteorites are dominated by millimeter-size silicate spherules called chondrules. The nature of the high-temperature events that produced them in the early Solar System remains enigmatic. Beside their thermal history, one important clue is provided by their size which shows remarkably little variation (less than a factor of 6 for the mean chondrule radius of most chondrites) despite the extensive range of ages and heliocentric distances sampled. It is however unclear whether chondrule size is due to the chondrule melting process itself, or has been simply inherited from the precursor material, or yet results from some sorting process. I examine these different possibilities in terms of their analytical size predictions. Unless the chondrule-forming “window” was very narrow, radial sorting can be excluded as a size-determining process because of the large variations it would predict. Molten planetesimal collision or impact melting models, which derive chondrules from the fragmentation of larger melt bodies, would likewise predict too much size variability by themselves; more generally any size modification during chondrule formation is limited in extent by evidence from compound chondrules and the considerable compositional variability of chondrules. Turbulent concentration would predict a low size variability but lack of evidence of any accretion bias in carbonaceous chondrites may be difficult to reconcile with any form of local sorting upon agglomeration. Growth by sticking (especially if bouncing-limited) of aggregates as chondrule precursors would yield limited variations of their final radius in space and time, and would be consistent with the relatively similar size of other chondrite components such as refractory inclusions. This suggests that the chondrule-melting process(es) simply melted such nebular aggregates with little modification of mass.