Were chondrites magnetized by the early solar wind?

1Rona Oran, 1Benjamin P. Weiss, 2Ofer Cohen
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 492, 222-231 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2018.02.013]
1Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
2Lowell Center for Space Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA 01854, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Chondritic meteorites have been traditionally thought to be samples of undifferentiated bodies that never experienced large-scale melting. This view has been challenged by the existence of post-accretional, unidirectional natural remanent magnetization (NRM) in CV carbonaceous chondrites. The relatively young inferred NRM age [∼10 million years (My) after solar system formation] and long duration of NRM acquisition (1–106 y) have been interpreted as evidence that the magnetizing field was that of a core dynamo within the CV parent body. This would imply that CV chondrites represent the primitive crust of a partially differentiated body. However, an alternative hypothesis is that the NRM was imparted by the early solar wind. Here we demonstrate that the solar wind scenario is unlikely due to three main factors: 1) the magnitude of the early solar wind magnetic field is estimated to be <0.1 μT in the terrestrial planet-forming region, 2) the resistivity of chondritic bodies limits field amplification due to pile-up of the solar wind to less than a factor of 3.5 times that of the instantaneous solar wind field, and 3) the solar wind field likely changed over timescales orders of magnitude shorter than the timescale of NRM acquisition. Using analytical arguments, numerical simulations and astronomical observations of the present-day solar wind and magnetic fields of young stars, we show that the maximum mean field the ancient solar wind could have imparted on an undifferentiated CV parent body is <3.5 nT, which is 3–4 and 3 orders of magnitude weaker than the paleointensities recorded by the CV chondrites Allende and Kaba, respectively. Therefore, the solar wind is highly unlikely to be the source of the NRM in CV chondrites. Nevertheless, future high sensitivity paleomagnetic studies of rapidly-cooled meteorites with high magnetic recording fidelity could potentially trace the evolution of the solar wind field in time.

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