Can galactic chemical evolution explain the oxygen isotopic variations in the solar system?


Lugaro, Maria; Liffman, Kurt; Ireland, Trevor R.; Maddison, Sarah T.


A number of objects in primitive meteorites have oxygen isotopic compositions that place them on a distinct, mass-independent fractionation line with a slope of one on a three-isotope plot. The most popular model for describing how this fractionation arose assumes that CO self-shielding produced 16O-rich CO and 16O-poor H 2O, where the H 2O subsequently combined with interstellar dust to form relatively 16O-poor solids within the solar nebula. Another model for creating the different reservoirs of 16O-rich gas and 16O-poor solids suggests that these reservoirs were produced by Galactic chemical evolution (GCE) if the solar system dust component was somewhat younger than the gas component and both components were lying on the line of slope one in the O three-isotope plot. We argue that GCE is not the cause of mass-independent fractionation of the oxygen isotopes in the solar system. The GCE scenario is in contradiction with observations of the 18O/ 17O ratios in nearby molecular clouds and young stellar objects. It is very unlikely for GCE to produce a line of slope one when considering the effect of incomplete mixing of stellar ejecta in the interstellar medium. Furthermore, the assumption that the solar system dust was younger than the gas requires unusual timescales or the existence of an important stardust component that is not theoretically expected to occur nor has been identified to date.

Publication year


Publication type

Journal article


Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 759, no. 1 (Nov 2012), article no. 51




Institute of Physics


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