Chondrules as fallout from vaporizing impacts in the solar nebulaOPEN ACCESS 

Nick Choksi, Eugene Chiang, Harold C. Connolly Jr., Zack Gainsforth, Andrew J. Westphal

Submitted to MNRAS


“We consider how chondrules, once-molten mm-sized spheres filling the oldest meteorites, may have formed as the thermally processed fallout from planetesimal collisions in the primordial solar nebula. We focus on the cloud of hot and dense silicate vapor released from a collision, and its expansion into cold and rarefied nebular hydrogen. Collisional particle debris, including chondrule precursors, are entrained by the cloud and melted by it, via gas conduction and radiation emitted by dust grains that condense out of the cloud. Conduction and radiation lock vapor, dust, and proto-chondrules to a common temperature, which falls as the cloud expands. Latent heat released by condensation slows cooling at first, but eventually radiative losses hasten it so that all remaining vapor condenses, leaving behind a pressure-less cavity which nebular gas backfills. Particles that are not too large are swept back in; of these, those that are not too small can sediment at drag-limited terminal velocities onto the planetesimal remains before solar tides tear them away. Particles that re-agglomerate with their parent thus have a specific size range: ∼1 mm in the asteroid belt, and ∼10 μm in the proto-Kuiper belt, for nebular densities comparable to the minimum-mass solar nebula. Thermal histories of chondrules in asteroids, and chondrule-like particles in the short-period comet 81P/Wild-2, are reproduced for colliding planetesimals of order 100 km in radius, matching the dominant sizes of Solar System minor bodies. If asteroids were born big and nebular gas densities decayed monotonically, then our model predicts older chondrules have larger maximum sizes and cooled more slowly. Problems, including the efficiency of chondrule production and the origin of CAIs, are discussed. “