Silicon Carbide Dust? The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind

Silicon carbide (SiC) minerals, which were argued to condense in stellar winds, were first isolated and imaged in 1987 (Bernatowicz et al. 1987). However, their existence in meteorites had been speculated from extensive noble gas studies. These studies suggested that SiC minerals are the carrier phases of the exotic 128,130Xe and 22Ne isotopic anomalies that can be found in primitive meteorites (e.g., Anders and Zinner 1993). In fact, SiC stardust does carry large isotopic anomalies, up to 4 orders of magnitude, both in light mass elements (e.g., carbon, nitrogen) and in medium mass elements (e.g., magnesium, iron, titanium). These anomalies can only be produced in stars through nuclear reactions occurring at extreme temperatures, by which the structure of the atomic nucleus is altered. The extreme isotopic anomalies in the SiC dust grains were not completely homogenized during the first 10 million years of planet formation and Solar System evolution, so they have kept their compositions intact until today. The dust grains carrying these enormous anomalies can be identified in extraterrestrial rocks that fall to Earth.

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