The Relationship Between Chondrite Matrices and Interplanetary Dust Particles


Kepler Sponsors

Primitive meteorites, chondrites are fragments of asteroids that have fallen to Earth. They preserve a record of the earliest stages of Solar System and planet formation. Chondrites are composed of two major components, chondrules and matrix. Chondrules formed as molten droplets in short-lived, high temperature events in the solar protoplanetary disk (nebula). If their abundance in chondrites is anything to go by, chondrules were produced by one of the more energetic processes operating in the early Solar System. What that process was still remains mysterious. 

Optical image of chondrules set in a dark matrix, courtesy Erik Hauri.
Optical image of chondrules set in a dark matrix, courtesy Erik Hauri.

Matrix is very fine-grained material (<10 µm) that cements chondrites together. There is at present a vigorous debate about how it formed. One school of thought is that it is composed mostly of material that was evaporated from chondrules. The other suggests that it is mostly composed of dust that was distributed throughout much of the solar nebula, including comets. Our proposal seeks to establish which of these two possibilities is correct, and will have fundamental implications for the early history of the Solar System leading up to the formation of planetesimals (the building blocks of planets) as well as the origins of water and other volatiles that are needed to make habitable planets.