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Coupled 142Nd–143Nd evidence for a protracted magma ocean in Mars


Resolving early silicate differentiation timescales is crucial for understanding the chemical evolution and thermal histories of terrestrial planets1. Planetary-scale magma oceans are thought to have formed during early stages of differentiation, but the longevity of such magma oceans is poorly constrained. In Mars, the absence of vigorous convection and plate tectonics has limited the scale of compositional mixing within its interior2, thus preserving the early stages of planetary differentiation. The SNC (Shergotty–Nakhla–Chassigny) meteorites from Mars retain ‘memory’ of these events3,4,5. Here we apply the short-lived 146Sm–142Nd and the long-lived 147Sm–143Nd chronometers to a suite of shergottites to unravel the history of early silicate differentiation in Mars. Our data are best explained by progressive crystallization of a magma ocean with a duration of 100 million years after core formation. This prolonged solidification requires the existence of a primitive thick atmosphere on Mars that reduces the cooling rate of the interior6.

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Figure 1: ε 142 Nd measured for martian meteorites in this study.
Figure 2: A two-stage coupled 142 Nd– 143 Nd evolution model for a chondritic martian magma ocean projected to 150 Myr ago.
Figure 3: The 147 Sm/ 144 Nd time-integrated ratios for mantle sources versus the measured ratios in lavas.


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We thank D. Draper for a review. We thank the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland, and the NASA Antarctic Meteorite Collection for providing samples for this study. We also thank Y. Reese and C.-Y. Shih for their analytical support and K. Rankenburg for his help. This work was supported by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, NASA Cosmochemistry and Origins of Solar Systems grants.

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Correspondence to V. Debaille.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

The file contains Supplementary Methods and the Supplementary Figure 1 showing the reproducibility and precision of 142 Nd measurements. It includes discussions about neutron capture effects and terrestrial contamination issues in Martian meteorites presented in this study, and additional explanations for the two-stage partial melting model as represented in the Supplementary Figure 2. It also contains the Supplementary Table 1 presenting all data set used in the text and Figures 1-3, and the Supplementary Table 2 including all the Nd isotopic compositions measured in this study. (PDF 381 kb)

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Debaille, V., Brandon, A., Yin, Q. et al. Coupled 142Nd–143Nd evidence for a protracted magma ocean in Mars. Nature 450, 525–528 (2007).

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