Title

Helium and Neon Abundances and Compositions in Cometary Matter

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-4-2008

Department

Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Materials trapped and preserved in comets date from the earliest history of the solar system. Particles captured by the Stardust spacecraft from comet 81P/Wild 2 are indisputable cometary matter available for laboratory study. Here we report measurements of noble gases in Stardust material. Neon isotope ratios are within the range observed in “phase Q,” a ubiquitous, primitive organic carrier of noble gases in meteorites. Helium displays 3He/4He ratios twice those in phase Q and in Jupiter's atmosphere. Abundances per gram are surprisingly large, suggesting implantation by ion irradiation. The gases are probably carried in high-temperature igneous grains similar to particles found in other Stardust studies. Collectively, the evidence points to gas acquisition in a hot, high ion-flux nebular environment close to the young Sun.

Publication Title

Science

DOI

10.1126/science.1148001