Publication Details

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Title: Isotopic mass fractionation of solar wind: Evidence from fast and slow solar wind collected by the Genesis mission
Authors: V. S. Heber, H. Baur, P. Bochsler, K. D. McKeegan, M. Neugebauer, D. B Reisenfeld, R. Wieler, R. C. Wiens
Publication: Astrophys. Jour., v. 759, p. 121‐134.
Publish Date: 2012
DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/759/2/121
PDF: pdf
BibTEX Citation: Herber:2012.bib


NASA’s Genesis space mission returned samples of solar wind collected over \sim2.3 years. We present elemental and isotopic compositions of He, Ne, and Ar analyzed in diamond‐like carbon targets from the slow and fast solar wind collectors to investigate isotopic fractionation processes during solar wind formation. The solar wind provides information on the isotopic composition for most volatile elements for the solar atmosphere, the bulk Sun and, hence, on the solar nebula from which it formed 4.6 Ga ago. Our data reveal a heavy isotope depletion in the slow solar wind compared to the fast wind composition by 63.1 ± 2.1‰ for He, 4.2 ± 0.5‰ amu−1 for Ne and 2.6 ± 0.5‰ amu‐1 for Ar. The three Ne isotopes suggest that isotopic fractionation processes between fast and slow solar wind are mass dependent. The He/H ratios of the collected slow and fast solar wind samples are 0.0344 and 0.0406, respectively. The inefficient Coulomb drag model reproduces the measured isotopic fractionation between fast and slow wind. Therefore, we apply this model to infer the photospheric isotopic composition of He, Ne, and Ar from our solar wind data. We also compare the isotopic composition of oxygen and nitrogen measured in the solar wind with values of early solar system condensates, probably representing solar nebula composition. We interpret the differences between these samples as being due to isotopic fractionation during solar wind formation. For both elements, the magnitude and sign of the observed differences are in good agreement with the values predicted by the inefficient Coulomb drag model.