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A stellar origin for the short-lived nuclides in the early Solar System

Abstract

Primitive meteorites contain isotopes that are the decay products of short-lived nuclides in the early Solar System1,2. The relative abundances of these isotopes provide a means to determine timescales for the formation and accretion of primitive Solar System objects, the abundances of the parent nuclides being fixed when these objects solidified. The abundances can also be used to investigate the source of the nuclides (such as 41Ca, 26Al, 60Fe, 53Mn and 107Pd), although this is an area of controversy. The nuclides could have originated from a single stellar object2,3,4,5,6, such as a nearby red-giant or a supernova. But observations of enhanced ion fluxes in a molecular cloud7 have led to other models8,9,10 in which these nuclides are formed by energetic particle irradiation of gas and dust in the protosolar molecular cloud; alternatively, irradiation by energetic particles from the active early Sun may have occurred within the solar nebula itself11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18. Here we show that there is a correlation between the initial abundances of 41Ca and 26Al in samples of primitive meteorite (as inferred from their respective decay products, 41K and 26Mg), implying a common origin for the short-lived nuclides. We can therefore rule out the mechanisms based onenergetic particle irradiation, as they cannot produce simultaneously the inferred initial abundances of both nuclides. If, as our results suggest, a single stellar source is responsible for generating these nuclides, we can constrain to less than one million years the timescale for the collapse of the protosolar cloud to form the Sun.

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Figure 1: Magnesium and potassium isotopic compositions in hibonites from three primitive meteorites.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to G. J. Wasserburg, G. J. MacPherson and A. A. Ulyanov for providing the samples of Allende and Efremovka CAIs for our study. We also thank E. J. Olsen of the Field Museum of Natural History for specimens of Murchison and Allende from which SH-7, BB-4, HAL and the seven hand-picked grains were extracted. We appreciate comments received from A. G. W. Cameron and E. Zinner. We acknowledge support from the Department of Space, Government of India (S.S. and J.N.G.) and from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (A.M.D., L.G. and R.S.L.). J.N.G. also acknowledges hospitality provided by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, during the preparation of this manuscript.

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Sahijpal, S., Goswami, J., Davis, A. et al. A stellar origin for the short-lived nuclides in the early Solar System. Nature 391, 559–561 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/35325

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