Noble Gases in the Murchison Meteorite: Possible Relics of s-Process Nucleosynthesis

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Science  07 Jul 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4350, pp. 51-56
DOI: 10.1126/science.201.4350.51


The Murchison carbonaceous chondrite contains a new type of xenon component, enriched by up to 50 percent in five of the nine stable xenon isotopes, mass numbers 128 to 132. This component, comprising 5 x 10-5 of the total xenon in the meteorite, is released at 1200° to 1600°C from a severely etched mineral fraction, and probably resides in some refractory mineral. Krypton shows a similar but smaller enrichment in the isotopes 80 and 82. Neon and helium released in the same interval also are quite anomalous, being highly enriched in the isotopes 22 and 3. These patterns are strongly suggestive of three nuclear processes believed to take place in red giants: the s process (neutron capture on a slow time scale), helium burning, and hydrogen shell burning. If this interpretation is correct, then primitive meteorites contain yet another kind of alien, presolar material: dust grains ejected from red giants.