Migration of D-type asteroids from the outer Solar System inferred from carbonate in meteorites


Recent dynamical models of Solar System evolution and isotope studies of rock-forming elements in meteorites have suggested that volatile-rich asteroids formed in the outer Solar System beyond Jupiter’s orbit, despite being currently located in the main asteroid belt1,2,3,4. The ambient temperature under which asteroids formed is a crucial diagnostic to pinpoint the original location of asteroids and is potentially determined by the abundance of volatiles they contain. In particular, abundances and 13C/12C ratios of carbonates in meteorites record the abundances of carbon-bearing volatile species in their parent asteroids. However, the sources of carbon for these carbonates remain poorly understood5,6,7,8. Here we show that the Tagish Lake meteorite contains abundant carbonates with consistently high 13C/12C ratios. The high abundance of 13C-rich carbonates in Tagish Lake excludes organic matter as their main carbon source5,9. Therefore, the Tagish Lake parent body, presumably a D-type asteroid10, must have accreted a large amount of 13C-rich CO2 ice. The estimated 13C/12C and CO2/H2O ratios of ice in Tagish Lake are similar to those of cometary ice11,12. Thus, we infer that at least some D-type asteroids formed in the cold outer Solar System and were subsequently transported into the inner Solar System owing to an orbital instability of the giant planets1,3.

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Fig. 1: C and O isotopic ratios of Ca-carbonate grains in the CM chondrites Nogoya and LAP 031166.
Fig. 2: δ13CVPDB values of calcite and dolomite grains in Tagish Lake.
Fig. 3: Histogram of the CO2/H2O mole ratios of ice in CM chondrites and comets.

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.


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We thank N. Takahata, T. Kagoshima, A. Ishida and E. Gröner for assistance with the ion probe analyses. This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant numbers 16K17838, 17K18814 and 18H04454, and UK Science and Technology Facilities Council grant ST/N000846/1.

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W.F. designed this work, W.F., P.H., T.U., K.F., M.K. and Y.S. performed the ion probe analyses, P.L. and M.R.L. carried out the petrologic and mineralogical observations of the samples, K.S. prepared the standard materials for the ion probe analyses, and all authors participated in discussion and preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to W. Fujiya.

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Fujiya, W., Hoppe, P., Ushikubo, T. et al. Migration of D-type asteroids from the outer Solar System inferred from carbonate in meteorites. Nat Astron 3, 910–915 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0801-4

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