Questions, questions: Can the contradictions between the petrologic, isotopic, thermodynamic, and astrophysical constraints on chondrule formation be resolved?


  • Conel M. O’D. ALEXANDER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5241 Broad Branch Road NW, Washington, DC 20015, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Denton S. EBEL

    1. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West @ 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Corresponding author. E-mail:


Abstract– Here, we show that several geochemical indicators point to number densities during chondrule formation that were far higher than can be accounted for by known nebula processes. The number densities implied by compound chondrules and nonspherical chondrules are shown to be significantly higher than estimated in previous studies. At the implied chondrule number densities, if a chondrule formation region survived a formation event it would have been gravitationally bound and would have collapsed quite rapidly to form an asteroidal-sized body. The diversity of chondrule compositions and textures in a chondrite group could have formed in a single event in subvolumes of a formation region that were chemically isolated from one another because of slow diffusion in the gas. Within these subvolumes, equilibration between chondrules with different compositions would have been fairly rapid, although small isotopic mass fractionations in elements like Fe, Si, Mg, and O may persist. This could explain the existence of the small isotopic mass fractionations in these elements that have been observed in chondrules. However, the evidence for recycling of chondrules requires that there was more than one chondrule formation event prior to formation of a parent asteroid. Finally, we argue that OC and CO chondrule Mg-Al systematics are both consistent with single ages or narrow ranges of ages, and that the CO, and possibly the OC, ages date parent body alteration. This would resolve the conundrum of needing to preserve in a turbulent nebula physically and chemically distinct CO and OC chondrule populations for 1–2 Myr.