Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - ORIGINS (Elucidating the ORIGINS of Solar System(s): Anatomy of primitive meteorites)

This project aimed to better understand the origins of our Solar System (Sun and planets) using meteorites and other material that date from that time. Our multidisciplinary approach involved both experiments and modelling. Our project was separated into four workpackages:

1. Physical conditions in the Protoplanetary Disk.
To get a better idea of what the Solar System looked like before the planets condensed, we developed an instrument, called the Nebulatron, which can replicate the conditions we expect. This allowed us to investigate which minerals form as a gas of solar composition cools down. In addition, we studied meteorites and micrometeorites that formed before the planets condensed, and measured their elemental and isotopic composition. We focused on a few poorly characterised meteorite and micrometeorite types. For meteorites, we looked at CI and CH meteorites. For micrometeorites, we looked especially at particularly small samples and at samples that had been melted when they formed.

2. Astrophysical setting and irradiation in the Protoplanetary Disk.
We know that the Solar System contained many radioactive isotopes when it formed. Many of these have completely decayed away, but their decay products can be found in early solar system materials. We measured the abundance of 53Cr (half-life- 3.5 Myr) and 135Cs (half-life- 3 Myr). We also modelled how the extinct radionculide 60Fe may have become injected into and mixed with the protoplanetary disk.

3. Chronology of events in the Early Solar System.
For this task, we focused on two chronometers- the Mn-Cr and the Al-Mg chronometer. Both of these can give high resolution ages for objects that formed 4.5 Byr ago, when the solar system was forming. For Al-Mg, we focused on the age of chondrules, which formed during high temperature melting events. For Mn-Cr we looked at the timing of aqueous alteration in early-formed asteroids. The aqueous alteration apparently took place over up to 10 Myr from the start of the solar system.

4. Radial Structure of the Disk.
One problem with studying meteorites is that one rarely knows where in space they came from. To tackle this problem , we set up a camera network on the Nullabor Plain in Australia, to enable us to look for meteorites as they fall through the atmosphere. One a meteorite had fallen, we calculated its orbit and also went into the field to retrieve it. This resulted in several important finds. Most significantly, we found a unique meteorite called Bunburra Rockhole. We also discovered a completely new meteorite crater, the Kamil crater in Northern Africa.

Reported by

United Kingdom
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