From candy floss to rock: Study provides new evidence about beginnings of the solar system

March 27, 2011
The candy floss-like rocks were formed billions of years ago in the massive disc of gas and dust called the Solar Nebula, before the birth of our Solar System

( -- The earliest rocks in our Solar System were more like candy floss than the hard rock that we know today, according to research published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The work, by researchers from Imperial College London and other international institutions, provides the first to support previous theories, based on computer models and lab experiments, about how the earliest rocks were formed. The study adds weight to the idea that the first solid material in the was fragile and extremely porous – much like candy floss – and that it was compacted during periods of extreme turbulence into harder rock, forming the building blocks that paved the way for planets like Earth.

Dr Phil Bland, lead author of the study from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

"Our study makes us even more convinced than before that the early carbonaceous chondrite rocks were shaped by the turbulent nebula through which they travelled billions of years ago, in much the same way that pebbles in a river are altered when subjected to high turbulence in the water. Our research suggests that the turbulence caused these early particles to compact and harden over time to form the first tiny rocks."

The researchers reached their conclusions after carrying out an extremely detailed analysis of an asteroid fragment known as a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite, which came from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. It was originally formed in the early Solar System when microscopic dust particles collided with one another and stuck together, coalescing around larger grain particles called chondrules, which were around a millimetre in size.

To analyse the carbonaceous chondrite sample, the team used an electron back-scatter defraction technique, which fires electrons at the sample. Researchers observe the resulting interference pattern using a microscope to study the structures within. This technique enabled the researchers to study the orientation and position of individual micrometre-sized grain particles that had coalesced around the chondrule. They found that the grains coated the chondrule in a uniform pattern, which they deduced could only occur if this tiny rock was subjected to shocks in space, possibly during these periods of turbulence.

The team also defined a new method to quantify the amount of compression that the had experienced and deduce the rock's original fragile structure.

Dr Bland adds: "What's exciting about this approach is that it allows us – for the first time – to quantitatively reconstruct the accretion and impact history of the most primitive solar system materials in great detail. Our work is another step in the process helping us to see how rocky planets and moons that make up parts of our Solar System came into being."

In the future, the team will focus further studies on how the earliest asteroids were built.

Explore further: Stardust lands in London: scientists look to comet for vital clues about Solar System

More information: "Earliest rock fabric formed in the Solar System preserved in chondrule rim" Nature Geoscience, Sunday 27 March 2011.

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1 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2011
"early carbonaceous chondrite rocks were shaped by the turbulent nebula through which they travelled billions of years ago"

These rocks formed in turbulent debris of the Sun after it exploded 5 Gyr ago to produce the solar system:

"Elemental and isotopic inhomogeneities in noble gases: The case for local synthesis of the chemical elements", Trans. Missouri Acad. Sci. 9, 104 122 (1975).

"Strange xenon, extinct superheavy elements and the solar neutrino puzzle", Science 195, 208-209 (1977).

"Isotopes of tellurium, xenon and krypton in the Allende meteorite retain record of nucleosynthesis", Nature 277, 615-620 (1979).

"Noble gas anomalies and synthesis of the chemical elements", Meteoritics 15, 117-138 (1980).

"Solar abundance of the elements", Meteoritics 18, 209-222 (1983).

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
1 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2011
The earliest rocks in our Solar System . . .

Include not only carbonaceous material, like

a.) Tiny inclusions of graphite and diamonds from outer layers of the supernova that eventually formed giant gaseous planets like Jupiter, but also

b.) Massive iron meteorites from deeper ejections near the supernova core that accreted to form iron cores of the inner planets.

See this short video summary of the turbulent birth of the solar system

And a few displays of the experimental data:

1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2011
oooh omtumor has a website now.

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