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Science. 1998 May 29;280(5368):1418-20.

In situ discovery of graphite with interstellar isotopic signatures in a chondrule-free clast in an L3 chondrite

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  • 1S. Mostefaoui and A. El Goresy, Max-Planck-Institut fur Kernphysik, Postfach 103980, 69029 Heidelberg, Germany. P. Hoppe, Physikalisches Institut, Universitat Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland, and Max Planck-Institut fur Chem.


Optical and scanning electron microscopy of a chondrule-free clast in the unequilibrated L3 chondrite Khohar revealed a spherical object consisting of an aggregate of small ( approximately 2- micrometer diameter), Ni-poor (0.5 to 2.89 weight percent) metal particles and fine-grained graphite (<1-micrometer diameter). The graphite has large D and 15N excesses (deltaD approximately 1500 per mil and delta15N approximately 1300 per mil) with two isotopically distinct signatures: N rich with a high D/H ratio and N poor with a high 15N/14N ratio. These excesses are the largest D and 15N excesses observed in situ in a well-characterized phase in a meteorite. The isotopic characteristics are suggestive of an interstellar origin, probably by ion-molecule reactions at low temperature in the interstellar molecular cloud from which the solar system formed. The structure and nonchondritic composition of the metal particles suggest they did not form under equilibrium conditions in the solar nebula.

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