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The great isotopic dichotomy of the early Solar System


The isotopic composition of meteorites and terrestrial planets holds important clues about the earliest history of the Solar System and the processes of planet formation. Recent work has shown that meteorites exhibit a fundamental isotopic dichotomy between non-carbonaceous (NC) and carbonaceous (CC) groups, which most likely represent material from the inner and outer Solar System, respectively. Here we review the isotopic evidence for this NC–CC dichotomy, discuss its origin and highlight the far-reaching implications for the dynamics of the solar protoplanetary disk. The NC–CC dichotomy combined with the chronology of meteorite parent-body accretion mandate an early and prolonged spatial separation of inner (NC) and outer (CC) disk reservoirs, lasting between ~1 and ~4 Myr after Solar System formation. This is most easily reconciled with the early and rapid growth of Jupiter’s core, inhibiting substantial exchange of material from inside and outside its orbit. The growth and migration of Jupiter also led to the later implantation of CC bodies into the inner Solar System and, therefore, can explain the co-occurrence of NC and CC bodies in the asteroid belt, and the delivery of volatile and water-rich CC bodies to the terrestrial planets.

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Fig. 1: NC–CC meteorite dichotomy inferred from isotopic signatures of bulk meteorites.
Fig. 2: Molybdenum isotope dichotomy of meteorites.
Fig. 3: Summary of isotopic ages discussed in the text, shown as age intervals relative to CAI formation.
Fig. 4: Accretion timescales of meteorite parent bodies as inferred from isotopic ages of meteorites.
Fig. 5: Evolution of the solar accretion disk.


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We are grateful to G. Budde and C. Burkhardt for many discussions about the NC–CC dichotomy, and for the collaborative effort that led to the identification of the dichotomy and for the development of some of the ideas presented in this Review. We thank G. Brennecka, J. Cuzzi, A. Morbidelli, F. Nimmo and E. A. Worsham for discussions. This study was performed under the auspices of the US DOE by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under contract DE-AC52-07NA2734. Funding from the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (grant 17-ERD-001 to L.E.B. and grant 20-ERD-001 to T.S.K.), from the European Research Council (ERC Consolidator grant number 616564 ‘ISOCORE’ to T.K.) and from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as part of the Collaborative Research Center TRR 170 (subproject B3) is gratefully acknowledged. This is TRR publication no. 81.

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Kruijer, T.S., Kleine, T. & Borg, L.E. The great isotopic dichotomy of the early Solar System. Nat Astron 4, 32–40 (2020).

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