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Mineralogy of chondritic interplanetary dust particles

By Ian D.R. Mackinnon and Frans J.M. Rietmeijer


From a mineralogical survey of approximately 30 chondritic micrometeorites collected from the lower stratosphere and studied in detail using current electron microscopy techniques, it is concluded that these particles represent a unique group of extraterrestrial materials. These micrometeorites differ significantly in form and texture from components of carbonaceous chondrites and contain some mineral assemblages which do not occur in any meteorite class. Electron microscope investigations of chondritic micrometeorites have established that these materials (1) are extraterrestrial in origin, (2) existed in space as small objects, (3) endured minimal alteration by planetary processes since formation, and (4) can suffer minimal pulse heating (<600°C) on entering earth's atmosphere. The probable sources for chondritic interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) are cometary and asteroidal debris and, perhaps to a lesser extent, interstellar regions. These sources have not been conclusively linked to any specific mineralogical subset of IDP, although the chondritic porous (CP) aggregate is considered of likely cometary origin. Chondritic IDPs occur in two predominant mineral assemblages: (1) carbonaceous phases and phyllosilicates and (2) carbonaceous phases and nesosilicates or inosilicates, although particles with both types of silicate assemblages are observed. Olivines, pyroxenes, layer silicates, and carbon-rich phases are the most commonly occurring minerals in many chondritic IDPs. Other phases often observed in variable proportions include sulphides, spinels, metals, metal carbides, carbonates, and minor amounts of sulphates and phosphates. Individual mineral grain sizes range from micrometers (primarily pyroxenes and olivines) to nanometers, with the predominant size for all phases less than 100 nm. Specific mineral characteristics for particular chondritic IDPs provide an indication of processes which may have occurred prior to collection in the earth's stratosphere. For example, pyroxene mineralogy in some chondritic aggregates is consistent with condensation from a vapor phase and, we consider, with condensation in a turbulent solar nebula at relatively low temperatures (<1000°C). Carbonaceous phases present in other CP aggregates have been used to imply low-temperature formation processes such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (∼530°C) or carbonization and graphitization (∼315°C). Alteration processes have been implicated in the formation of some layer silicates in CP aggregates and may have involved hydrocryogenic alteration at <0°C. In general, interpretations of transformation processes on submicrometer-size minerals in chondritic IDPs are consistent with formation at a radius equivalent to the asteroid belt or greater during the later stages of solar nebula evolution using currently available models

Topics: 040302 Extraterrestrial Geology, 040306 Mineralogy and Crystallography, aeronomy, bibliography, chondrites, composition, electron probe data, extraterrestrial geology, genesis, interplanetary dust, interplanetary space, meteorites, micrometeorites, mineral composition, particulate materials, review, SEM data, solar nebula, stony meteorites, stratosphere
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
Year: 1987
DOI identifier: 10.1029/RG025i007p01527
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:55672
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