Meteoritic noble gas constraints on the origin of terrestrial volatiles

1Bernard Marty
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2022.115020]
1Université de Lorraine, CNRS, CRPG, F-54000 Nancy, France
Copyright Elsevier

The elemental and isotopic compositions of noble gases trapped in primitive meteorites have the potential to yield stringent constraints on the origin of matter in the solar system. The isotopic compositions of key elements like O, Ti, Ru, Mo suggest that the Earth accreted from material having similarities with two classes of meteorites, carbonaceous chondrites (CC) and non‑carbonaceous chondrites (NC), in particular enstatite chondrites (EC). In this contribution, I examine published noble gas (neon and argon) data for CI-CM as representative of CCs, and ECs as representative of NC terrestrial building blocks. Data were corrected for contributions of cosmic ray-produced isotopes in order to identify the trapped component compositions. For both CCs and ECs, corrected noble gas data indicate that high temperature objects such as chondrules were evolving in a dusty environment. The dust consisted of refractory phases including nanodiamonds, impacts-related debris, medium to low temperature phases mainly made of organics and, in the case of CC, hydrated minerals and icy grains. Remnants of such a dust are found as rims around chondrules and as a matrix between high temperature assemblages. The dust was probably the main source of volatiles on Earth.

In terrestrial reservoirs, covariations of 20Ne/22Ne ratios with 36Ar/22Ne ratios are consistent with mixing between a solar-like neon component trapped in the mantle and a chondritic Ne–Ar component mainly present in the atmosphere and hydrosphere. The chondritic end-member is clearly of the CC type and excludes EC-like material as the source of atmospheric volatiles. In addition to CC-like material, the isotopic composition of heavy noble gases (Kr and Xe) in the atmosphere points to a ~ 20% contribution of cometary material akin of the composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In contrast, comets might have contributed less than 1% terrestrial water, C and N. Solar-like neon in the terrestrial mantle might have originated from solar irradiation of free-floating dust before parent body compaction, but this would require a cleared, dust-free environment. Trapping of nebular gas into forming solids during the gas epoch of the nascent solar system appears a more promising possibility. For other mantle volatiles, the stable isotopes of H, N, Ar, Kr and Xe point to a chondritic origin. The hydrogen and nitrogen isotopic signatures of mantle rocks and minerals are consistent with an EC-like contribution whereas those of heavy noble gases are still too imprecise to conclude. Further progress in the field will require high precision analysis of noble gases (in particular, Kr and Xe) trapped in the terrestrial (and martian) mantle(s), as well as documenting the composition of the Venusian atmosphere.

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