Carbonaceous Chondrites and the Condensation of Elements from the Solar Nebula

Hauke Vollstaedt, Klaus Mezger, and Yann Alibert

The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 897, Number 1


“Common features of all carbonaceous chondrite groups are invariant refractory element ratios, depletions of moderately volatile elements as a function of their condensation temperature (TC), and strongly depleted highly volatile element concentrations independent of TC. The depletion of volatile elements with respect to the bulk solar system composition requires a separation of gas from solids in the solar nebula. Several models have been proposed to explain the decoupling of gas and solids, but not all are compatible with astrophysical, chemical, and petrologic constraints. Here existing physical models are integrated with measured element concentrations, measured and modeled physical properties of protoplanetary disks, and planetary-scale nucleosynthetic and stable isotope variations to establish a conceptual model for the condensation and accretion of elements into planetesimals. In this model, the chemical composition of chondrites is established by element condensation in a cooling solar nebula that changed its surface density as a function of time and temperature. The model predicts peak temperatures at the condensation sites of about 1400 K that consequently decreased due to a diminishing heat source originating from viscous heating and radiation, accompanied by continuous removal of gas from the nebula surface by photoevaporation. The coupled evolution of condensing solids from a nebula of diminishing surface density resulted in a pattern of decreasing moderately volatile abundances with decreasing TC. The reduction of nebula opacity due to the chondrule-forming process significantly increased nebula cooling rates and led to the near-chondritic relative abundances of highly volatile elements observed in carbonaceous chondrites.”