Helium-3 from the Mantle: Primordial Signal or Cosmic Dust?

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Science  09 Jul 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5118, pp. 170-176
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5118.170


Helium-3 in hotspot magmas has been used as unambiguous evidence for the existence of a primordial, undegassed reservoir deep in the Earth's mantle. However, a large amount of helium-3 is delivered to the Earth's surface by interplanetary dust particles (IDPs). Recycling of deep-sea sediments containing these particles to the mantle, and eventual incorporation in magma, can explain the high helium-3/helium-4 ratios of hotspot magmas. Basafts with high helium-3/helium-4 ratios may represent degassing of helium introduced by ancient (probably 1.5 to 2.0 billion years old) pelagic sediments rather than degassing of primordial lower mantle material brought to the surface in plumes. Influx of IDPs can also explain the neon and siderophile compositions of mantle samples.

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