Origins of non-mass-dependent fractionation of extra-terrestrial oxygen

Homar Barcena, Harold C. Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distribution of oxygen isotopes in meteorites and within the earliest solids that formed in the solar system hints that the precursors of these materials must have undergone a mass-independent process. The mass-independent process is specifically one that fractionates 16O from 17O and 18O. This chemical signature is indicative of non-equilibrium processing, which bear resemblance to some unusual terrestrial phenomenon such as fractionation of ozone in the upper Earth atmosphere. That the mass-independent fractionation of oxygen isotopes is preserved within petrological records presents planetary scientists interesting clues to the events that may have occurred during the formation of the solar system. Currently, there are several hypotheses on the origins of the oxygen isotope distribution within primitive planetary materials, which include both thermal and photochemical models. We present a new model based on a physico-chemical hypothesis for the origin of non-mass-dependent O-isotope distribution in oxygen-bearing extra-terrestrial materials, which originated from the disproportionation of CO in dark molecular clouds to create CO2 reservoirs. The disproportionation created a reservoir of heavy oxygen isotopes and could have occurred throughout the evolution of the disk. The CO2 was a carrier of the isotope anomaly in the solar nebula and we propose that non-steady-state mixing of these reservoirs with the early rock-forming materials during their formation corresponds with the birth and evolution of the solar system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL32
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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