Publication Details

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Title: Oxygen‐isotopic evolution of the solar nebula
Authors: J.T. Wasson
Publication: Rev. Geophys., v. 38, p. 491‐512.
Publish Date: Nov 2000
DOI: 10.1029/2000RG000083
PDF: pdf
BibTEX Citation: Wasson:2000.bib


Studies of the three oxygen isotopes in chondrite meteorites demonstrate that diverse O reservoirs (characterized by their Δ17O values) were present in the solar nebula. The discovery that some chondritic materials have O‐isotopic compositions that cannot be explained by mass‐dependent fractionation of an initially well mixed reservoir has important implications for the history of the solar nebula. On a plot of δ17O versus δ18O (or 17O/16O versus 18O/16O), terrestrial samples (with the main exception of stratospheric ozone) fall along a single line (the terrestrial fractionation, or TF, line) having a slope ⁓0.52, an indication that the parental reservoir was homogenized. A convenient measure of O−isotopic heterogeneity is the deviation from the TF line, Δ17O = δ17O − 0.52 × δ18O. A popular model to explain the evolution of chondritic oxygen compositions during nebular and asteroidal aqueous alteration processes calls for the nebula to have formed from solids having δ18O = −40‰ and δ17O = −41‰ (Δ17O = −20‰) and a gas having a composition roughly estimated to be δ18O = 30‰ and δ17O = 24‰ (Δ17O = 9‰). This model encounters serious difficulties when examined in detail; in particular, it cannot readily account for the O−isotopic compositions of both chondrules and refractory inclusions from individual chondrite groups, or for the differences between groups, particularly in the compositions of chondrules. Magnetite (Fe3O4) is a key phase for O−isotope studies because during its formation by the oxidation of ferrous metal or FeS, all O comes from the oxidant, probably H2O. It appears that most (and, possibly, nearly all) magnetite formed during aqueous alteration processes that occurred in asteroids. In all chondrite groups studied to date, Δ17O of the magnetite is greater than or equal to that of the chondrule silicates. If the H2O originated in the ambient (local) nebula, then at the time of accretion the Δ17O of the nebular gas was generally higher than that of the solids. An alternative view is that the heterogeneity in the O‐isotopic composition of chondrites indicates that the nebula formed from diverse batches of presolar materials, the precise O‐isotopic composition of the mix varying during the accretion history of the nebula. The large compositional gaps between groups suggest that agglomeration of nebular dust to form chondrites did not proceed at a constant rate but that periods with turbulence levels low enough to allow agglomeration were punctuated by periods of high turbulence during which the composition of the inner nebula sampled by chondrites changed appreciably.