Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Laboratory evidence for co-condensed oxygen- and carbon-rich meteoritic stardust from nova outbursts


Although their parent stars no longer exist, the isotopic and chemical compositions and microstructure of individual stardust grains identified in meteorites provide unique constraints on dust formation and thermodynamic conditions in stellar outflows1,2,3,4,5. Novae are stellar explosions that take place in the hydrogen-rich envelope accreted onto the surface of a white dwarf in a close binary system6. The energy released by a suite of nuclear processes operating in the envelope powers a thermonuclear runaway, resulting in the ejection of processed material into the interstellar medium. Spectral fitting of features observed in the infrared spectra of dust-forming novae provided evidence of the co-condensation of both carbonaceous and silicate dust in stellar outflows within 50 to 100 days after explosion7,8,9. Although novae appear as prolific producers of both carbon- and oxygen-rich dust, very few presolar grains that can be attributed to novae have been found in meteorites thus far10,11,12,13,14,15,16. Here, we report the identification of an oxygen-rich inclusion, composed of both silicate and oxide nanoparticles, inside a graphite spherule that originated in the ejecta of a low-mass carbon- and oxygen-rich (CO) nova. This observation establishes laboratory evidence of the co-condensation of oxygen- and carbon-rich dust in nova outbursts and is consistent with large-scale transport and mixing of materials between chemically distinct clumps in the nova ejecta.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: STEM data of LAP-149.
Fig. 2: Energy-loss near-edge structure of presolar graphite grains.
Fig. 3: STEM imaging and EDS data of the inclusion inside LAP-149.
Fig. 4: TEM imaging and electron-nanodiffraction data of the inclusion inside LAP-149.

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


  1. Zinner, E. in Meteorites and Cosmochemical Processes Vol. 1 (ed. Davis, A. M.) 181–213 (Elsevier, 2014).

  2. Floss, C. & Haenecour, P. Presolar silicate grains: abundances, isotopic and elemental compositions, and the effects of secondary processing. Geochem. J. 50, 3–25 (2016).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Nguyen, A. N., Keller, L. P. & Messenger, S. Mineralogy of presolar silicate and oxide grains of diverse stellar origins. Astrophys. J. 818, 51 (2016).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Hoppe, P., Leitner, J. & Kodolányi, J. The stardust abundance in the local interstellar cloud at the birth of the Solar System. Nat. Astron. 1, 617–620 (2017).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Zega, T. J. et al. A transmission electron microscopy study of presolar spinel. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 124, 152–169 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. José, J. Stellar Explosions: Hydroynamics and Nucleosynthesis (CRC Press, 2016).

  7. Sakon, I. et al. Concurrent formation of carbon and silicate dust in Nova V1280 Sco. Astrophys. J. 817, 145 (2016).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Shore, S. N., Starrffield, S., Gonzalez-Riestrat, R., Hauschildt, P. H. & Sonneborn, G. Dust formation in Nova Cassiopeiae 1993 seen by ultraviolet absorption. Nature 369, 539–541 (1994).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Gehrz, R. D. et al. The temporal development of dust formation and destruction in Nova Sagittarii 2015#2 (V5668 Sgr): a panchromatic study. Astrophys. J. 858, 78 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Amari, S. et al. Presolar grains from novae. Astrophys. J. 551, 1065–1072 (2001).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Leitner, J., Kodolányi, J., Hoppe, P. & Floss, C. Laboratory analysis of presolar silicate stardust from a nova. Astrophys. J. Lett. 754, L41 (2012).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. José, J., Hernanz, M., Amari, S., Lodders, K. & Zinner, E. The imprint of nova nucleosynthesis in presolar grains. Astrophys. J. 612, 414–428 (2004).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. José, J. & Hernanz, M. The origin of presolar nova grains. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 42, 1135–1143 (2007).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Gyngard, F. et al. Automated NanoSIMS measurement of spinel stardust from the Murray meteorite. Astrophys. J. 717, 107–120 (2010).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Nguyen, A. N. & Messenger, S. Resolving the stellar sources of isotopically rare presolar silicate grains through Mg and Fe isotopes analyses. Astrophys. J. 784, 149 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Liu, N. et al. Stellar origins of extremely 13C- and 15N-enriched presolar SiC grains: novae or supernovae? Astrophys. J. 820, 140 (2016).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Haenecour, P. et al. Coordinated analysis of two graphite grains from the CO3.0 LAP 031117 meteorite: first identification of a CO nova graphite and a presolar iron sulfide subgrain. Astrophys. J. 825, 88 (2016).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Iliadis, C., Downen, L. N., José, J., Nittler, L. R. & Starrfield, S. On presolar stardust grains from CO classical novae. Astrophys. J. 855, 76 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. Haenecour, P. et al. Presolar silicates in the matrix and fine-grained rims around chondrules in primitive CO3.0 chondrites: evidence for pre-accretionary aqueous alteration of the rims in the solar nebula. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 221, 379–405 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. Croat, T. K., Bernatowicz, T. J. & Daulton, T. L. Presolar graphitic carbon spherules: rocks from stars. Elements 10, 441–446 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Smith, C. H., Aitken, D. K., Roche, P. F. & Wright, C. M. Mid-infrared spectroscopy of galactic novae. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 277, 259–269 (1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. Gehrz, R. D. et al. The peculiar infrared temporal development of Nova Vulpeculae 1987 (QV Vulpeculae). Astrophys. J. 400, 671–680 (1992).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Takei, D. et al. X-ray fading and expansion in the ‘miniature supernova remnant’ of GK Persei. Astrophys. J. 801, 92 (2015).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Kawakita, H., Ootsubo, T., Arai, A., Shinnaka, Y. & Nagashima, M. Mid-infrared spectroscopic observations of the dust-forming classical nova V2676 Oph. Astron. J. 153, 74 (2017).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  25. Figueira, J. et al. Three-dimensional simulations of the interaction between the nova ejecta, accretion disk, and companion star. Astron. Astrophys. 613, A8 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Casanova, J., José, J., García-Berro, E., Shore, S. N. & Calder, A. C. Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities as the source of inhomogeneous mixing in nova explosions. Nature 478, 490–492 (2011).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. Li, K.-L. et al. A nova outburst powered by shocks. Nat. Astron. 1, 697–702 (2017).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. Zega, T. J., Nittler, L. R., Busemann, H., Hoppe, P. & Stroud, R. M. Coordinated isotopic and mineralogic analyses of planetary materials enabled by in situ lift-out with a focused ion beam scanning electron microscope. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 42, 1373–1386 (2007).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  29. Egerton, R. F. & Cheng, S. C. Measurement of local thickness by electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Ultramicroscopy 21, 231–244 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


P.H. thanks the late Christine Floss for her mentorship and discussions about our discovery of a silicate-oxide inclusion inside LAP-149. This research was supported by the NASA NExSS ‘Earths in Other Solar Systems’ (EOS) programme (NNX15AD94G), NASA grants NNX15ALJ22G (T.J.Z.), NNX16AD31G (S.A.) and NNX14AG25G (C. Floss) from the Emerging Worlds Program, NSF grant AST-1517541 (K.L.), the Spanish MINECO grant AYA2017–86274–P, the EU FEDER funds and the AGAUR/Generalitat de Catalunya grant SGR-661/2017 (J.J.). This article also benefited from discussions within the ‘ChETEC’ COST Action (CA16117). STEM/TEM and FIB analyses were carried out at the University of Arizona Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility (NSF grant 1531243 and NASA grants NNX15AJ22G and NNX12AL47G). The NanoSIMS measurements were also supported by the McDonnell Center for Space Sciences at Washington University in Saint Louis. We are also grateful to P. Wallace for his help with the preparation of the electron-transparent section, and to J. Lewis and T. Smolar for their support with the NanoSIMS 50 work.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



P.H. prepared the FIB sample cross-section, carried out the TEM and NanoSIMS measurements and wrote the manuscript. J.Y.H., K.K., T.S., A.M. and T.J.Z. helped with the TEM analyses. T.J.Z., S.A., K.L. and J.J. contributed to the data interpretation. All authors contributed to the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pierre Haenecour.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Journal peer review information: Nature Astronomy thanks Reto Trappitsch and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–6

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Haenecour, P., Howe, J.Y., Zega, T.J. et al. Laboratory evidence for co-condensed oxygen- and carbon-rich meteoritic stardust from nova outbursts. Nat Astron 3, 626–630 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing