Accretion timescales and style of asteroidal differentiation in an 26Al-poor protoplanetary disk

K.K. Larsen, M. Schiller, M. Bizzarro

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 8 December 2015


“The decay of radioactive 26Al to 26Mg (half-life of 730,000 years) is postulated to have been the main energy source promoting asteroidal melting and differentiation in the nascent Solar System. High-resolution chronological information provided by the 26Al-26Mg decay system is, therefore, intrinsically linked to the thermal evolution of early-formed planetesimals. In this paper, we explore the timing and style of asteroidal differentiation by combining high-precision Mg isotope measurements of meteorites with thermal evolution models for planetesimals. In detail, we report Mg isotope data for a suite of olivine-rich [Al/Mg ∼ 0] achondritic meteorites, as well as a few chondrites. Main Group, pyroxene and the Zinder pallasites as well as the lodranite all record deficits in the mass-independent component of μ26Mg (μ26Mg∗) relative to chondrites and Earth. This isotope signal is expected for the retarded ingrowth of radiogenic 26Mg∗ in olivine-rich residues produced through partial silicate melting during 26Al decay and consistent with their marginally heavy Mg isotope composition relative to ordinary chondrites, which may reflect the early extraction of isotopically light partial melts from the source rock. We propose that their parent planetesimals started forming within ∼250,000 years of Solar System formation from a hot (>∼500 K) inner protoplanetary disk region characterized by a reduced initial (26Al/27Al)0 abundance (∼1-2 × 10-5) relative to the (26Al/27Al)0 value in CAIs of 5.25 × 10-5. This effectively reduced the total heat production and allowed for the preservation of solid residues produced through progressive silicate melting with depth within the planetesimals. These ‘non-carbonaceous’ planetesimals acquired their mass throughout an extended period (>3 Myr) of continuous accretion, thereby generating onion-shell structures of incompletely differentiated zones, consisting of olivine-rich residues, overlaid by metachondrites and undifferentiated chondritic crusts. In contrast, individual olivine crystals from Eagle Station pallasites record variable μ26Mg∗ excesses, suggesting that these crystals captured the 26Mg∗ evolution of a magmatic reservoir controlled by fractional crystallization processes during the lifespan of 26Al. Similar to previous suggestions based on isotopic evidence, we suggest that Eagle Station pallasites formed from precursor material similar in composition to carbonaceous chondrites from a cool outer protoplanetary disk region characterized by (26Al/27Al)0 ⩾2.7 × 10-5. Protracted planetesimal accretion timescales at large orbital distances, with onset of accretion 0.3-1 Myr post-CAIs, may have resulted in significant radiative heat loss and thus efficient early interior cooling of slowly accreting ‘carbonaceous’ planetesimals.”