Research Articles

Live Iron-60 in the Early Solar System

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Science  19 Feb 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5098, pp. 1138-1142
DOI: 10.1126/science.259.5098.1138


Isotopic analyses of nickel in samples from the differentiated meteorite Chervony Kut revealed the presence of relative excesses of 60Ni ranging from 2.4 up to 50 parts per 104. These isotopic excesses are from the decay of the now extinct short-lived nuclide 60Fe and provide clear evidence for the existence of 60Fe over large scales in the early solar system. Not only was 60Fe present at the time of melting and differentiation (that is, Fe-Ni fractionation) of the parent body of Chervony Kut but also later at the time when basaltic magma solidified at or near the surface of the planetesimal. The inferred abundance of 60Fe suggests that its decay alone could have provided sufficient heat to melt small (diameters of several hundred kilometers) planetary bodies shortly after their accretion.