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Among presolar SiC grains found in the Murchison carbonaceous meteorites (average size less than 0.5 μm) are very large grains, ranging in size up to 50 μm. We interpret 6Li excesses measured in eight of these grains as being the result of spallation reactions by Galactic cosmic rays during the time the grains spent in the interstellar medium before their incorporation into the meteorite. Derived interstellar exposure ages range from 40 My to 1 Gy, the highest values being consistent with theoretical expectations of interstellar grain lifetimes. Although six grains have almost identical C and Si isotopic compositions, their exposure ages are very different. This observation, combined with low trace element contents, and unusual grain sizes, raises fundamental questions about their stellar sources.
Infrared observations of nova light curves reveal that classical novae form grains in the expanding shells, ejected into the interstellar medium as a consequence of a violent outburst. Such grains contain nucleo-synthetic fingerprints of the nova explosion. In this paper, we analyse different isotopic signatures expected to be present in nova grains on the basis of detailed hydrodynamic calculations of CO and ONe novae and compare them with recent determinations of presolar nova grains from the Acfer 094 and Murchison meteorites.
Primitive meteorites contain small amounts of presolar minerals that formed in the winds of evolved stars or in the ejecta of stellar explosions. Silicon carbide is the best studied presolar mineral. Based on its isotopic compositions it was divided into distinct populations that have different origins: Most abundant are the mainstream grains which are believed to come from 1.5–3 M⊙ AGB stars of roughly solar metallicity. The rare Y and Z grains are likely to come from 1.5–3 M⊙ AGB stars as well, but with subsolar metallicities (0.3–0.5 times solar). Here we report on C and Si isotope and trace element (Zr, Ba) studies of individual, submicrometer-sized SiC grains. The most striking results are: (1) Zr and Ba concentrations are higher in Y and Z grains than in mainstream grains, with enrichments relative to Si and solar of up to 70 times (Zr) and 170 times (Ba), respectively; (2) For the Y and Z grains there is a positive correlation between Ba concentrations and amount of s-process Si. This correlation is well explained by predictions for 2–3 M⊙ AGB stars with metallicities of 0.3–0.5 times solar. This confirms low-metallicity stars as most likely stellar sources for the Y and Z grains.
Knowledge about the age of presolar grains provides important insights into Galactic chemical evolution and the dynamics of grain formation and destruction processes in the Galaxy. Determination from the abundance of cosmic ray interaction products is straightforward, but in the past has suffered from uncertainties in correcting for recoil losses of spallation products. The problem is less serious in a class of large (tens of μm) grains. We describe the correction procedure and summarise results for He and Ne ages of presolar SiC ‘Jumbo’ grains that range from close to zero to ∼850 Myr, with the majority being less than 200 Myr. We also discuss the possibility of extending our approach to the majority of smaller SiC grains and explore possible contributions from trapping of cosmic rays.
Presolar diamond, the carrier of the isotopically anomalous Xe component Xe–HL, was the first mineral type of presolar dust that was isolated from meteorites. The excesses in the light, p-process only isotopes 124Xe and 126Xe, and in the heavy, r-process only isotopes 134Xe and 136Xe relative to the solar ratios indicate that Xe–HL was produced in supernovae: they are the only stellar source where these two processes are believed to take place. Although these processes occur in supernovae, their physical conditions and timeframes are completely different. Yet the excesses are always correlated in diamond separates from meteorites. Furthermore, the p-process 124Xe/126Xe inferred from Xe–L and the r-process 134Xe/136Xe from Xe–H do not agree with the p-process and r-process ratios derived from the solar system abundance, and the inferred p-process ratio does not agree with those predicted from stellar models. The ‘rapid separation scenario’, where the separation of Xe and its radiogenic precursors Te and I takes place at the very early stage (7900 s after the end of the r-process), has been proposed to explain Xe–H. Alternatively, mixing of 20% of material that experienced neutron burst and 80% of solar material can reproduce the pattern of Xe–H, although Xe–L is not accounted for with this scenario.
Presolar graphite contains a 22Ne-rich component called Ne-E(L). Noble gas studies on graphite aggregates and single grains have shown that although a dominant source of the 22Ne is 22Na, 22Ne in the He-shell of asymptotic giant branch stars have also contributed to the Ne-E(L). In addition to novae that have been considered to be a possible source of 22Na, supernovae are a likely source as well. Krypton isotopic ratios of the separates indicate that part of graphite formed in low-mass (≤3 M⊙) asymptotic giant branch stars of low metallicity (Z ≤ 0.006).
Pre-solar grains from supernova ejecta – silicon carbide of type X, Si3N4 and low-density graphite – are characterized by Si isotopic anomalies (mainly 28Si excesses), low 14N/15N, high 26Al/27 Al ratios, and occasionally by excesses in 44Ca (from 44Ti decay). Overall isotopic features of these SiC and graphite grains can be explained by mixing of inner Si-rich zones and the outer C-and He-rich zones, but supernova models require fine tuning to account for 14N/15N and 29Si/28Si ratios of the grains. Isotopic ratios of Zr, Mo and Ba in SiC X grains may be explained by a neutron burst model. Some of the pre-solar nanodiamonds require a supernova origin to explain measured xenon isotopic ratios. Only a few nova grain candidates, with low 12C/13C, 14N/15N, and high 26Al/27 Al ratios, have been identified.
The carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios of pre-solar SiC grains of type A+B suggest a proton-limited nucleosynthetic process as encountered, for instance, during the very late thermal pulse of post-AGB stars. We study the nuclear processes during this phase and find carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios which can reproduce those of A+B grains. These results are still preliminary because they depend on uncertain factors such as the details of mixing during the post-AGB thermal pulse, the rates of some nuclear reactions, and the assumptions on mixing during the progenitor AGB phase.
Primitive meteorites contain dust grains that predate the Solar System, formed in stellar atmospheres and thus represent samples of ancient Stardust. Among the presolar grain types identified so far, corundum (Al2O3) and silicon carbide (SiC) are inferred to originate from AGB stars. Corundum grains carry the signatures of core H burning in their O isotopes and of shell H burning during the AGB phase in the form of extinct 26Al. In presolar SiC, most of which originated from carbon stars, the C and N isotopes and 26Al reflect core and shell H burning and shell He burning. In addition, many elements that carry the isotopic signature of neutron capture have also been measured. Most individual grains show excesses in 29Si and 30Si, but the contribution from neutron capture is only a minor effect and the major effect is due to galactic heterogeneity. Noble gases and the elements Ba, Nd, Sm, and Dy are measured in ”bulk samples”, collections of many grains. Their measured isotopic patterns are well reproduced by models of the s-process in AGB stars. Recently, the isotopic analysis of Sr, Zr and Mo in single SiC grains has been made possible by resonance ionization mass spectrometry. These measurements also point to low-mass AGB stars as the most likely sources. Specifically, large 96Zr depletions in some grains indicate that the 22Ne(α, n) source was not active in the grains' parent stars.
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