Early cosmic ray irradiation of chondrules and prolonged accretion of primitive meteorites

Uta Beyersdorf-Kuis , Ulrich Ott , Mario Trieloff

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 423, 1 August 2015, Pages 13–23


Chondrules, together with Ca-Al-rich inclusions (CAIs) and matrix, are the major constituents of primitive meteorites. It is clear that chondrules formed as molten objects and the conditions under which this happened seem well constrained. Partially overlapping in age, but mostly ∼2–3 million years younger than the CAIs, they appear to have formed over an extended period of time (e.g., Kita et al., 2013). We have analyzed chondrules in two highly primitive CR3 meteorites, QUE 99177 and MET 00426, and find that they contain highly variable amounts of noble gases produced by irradiation with cosmic rays. The lack of implanted solar wind and the composition of the cosmogenic component in QUE 99177 chondrules argue against irradiation in a parent body regolith, which leaves irradiation in the early solar system as the most likely explanation. The cosmogenic composition also points to irradiation primarily by galactic cosmic rays (GCR), not solar cosmic rays (SCR), i.e. not by an active early sun. To allow effective production of cosmogenic isotopes by GCR, but not SCR, this should have happened rather “late” in a largely, but not completely, dust-free environment. Our results support the suggestion that chondrules formed as free-floating objects in the solar nebula; also consistent with the noble gas data is pre-irradiation in small (∼dm-size) aggregates that broke up before or during accretion to the CR parent body. In both cases, chondrules spent an extended period of time before incorporation into the most primitive meteorite parent bodies, which puts constraints on accretion time scales.