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Stardust silicates from primitive meteorites


Primitive chondritic meteorites contain material (presolar grains1), at the level of a few parts per million, that predates the formation of our Solar System. Astronomical observations2 and the chemical composition of the Sun3 both suggest that silicates must have been the dominant solids in the protoplanetary disk from which the planets of the Solar System formed, but no presolar silicates have been identified in chondrites4,5,6. Here we report the in situ discovery of presolar silicate grains 0.1–1 µm in size in the matrices of two primitive carbonaceous chondrites. These grains are highly enriched in 17O (δ17OSMOW > 100–400‰), but have solar silicon isotopic compositions within analytical uncertainties, suggesting an origin in an oxygen-rich red giant or an asymptotic giant branch star7,8. The estimated abundance of these presolar silicates (3–30 parts per million) is higher than reported for other types of presolar grains in meteorites1, consistent with their ubiquity in the early Solar System, but is about two orders of magnitude lower than their abundance in anhydrous interplanetary dust particles9. This result is best explained by the destruction of silicates during high-temperature processing in the solar nebula.

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We thank E. R. D. Scott for discussions, and I. Takayanagi, K. Kosaka and Suzushin-Kogyo for assistance with SCAPS development. This work was supported by Monkasho (H.Y.) and NASA (A.N.K.).

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Kazuhide Nagashima.

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Figure 1: Corresponding images of backscattered electrons, secondary ion ratio (28Si-/16O-), and oxygen isotope ratios (δ17O and δ18O) of matrices.
Figure 2: Oxygen isotopic ratios of presolar silicate and oxide grains.
Figure 3: Backscattered electron images of presolar grains embedded in meteorite matrices.


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