Research Articles

Evidence for Widespread 26Al in the Solar Nebula and Constraints for Nebula Time Scales

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Science  09 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5276, pp. 757-762
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5276.757


A search was made for 26Mg (26Mg*) from the decay of 26Al (half-life = 0.73 million years) in Al-rich objects from unequilibrated ordinary chondrites. Two Ca-Al-rich inclusions (CAIs) and two Al-rich chondrules (not CAIs) were found that contained 26Al when they formed. Internal isochrons for the CAIs yielded an initial 26Al/27Al ratio [(26Al/27Al)0] of 5 × 10−5, indistinguishable from most CAIs in carbonaceous chondrites. This result shows that CAIs with this level of 26Al are present throughout the classes of chondrites and strengthens the notion that 26Al was widespread in the early solar system. The two Al-rich chondrules have lower 26Mg*, corresponding to a (26Al/27Al)0 ratio of ∼ 9 × 10−6. Five other Al-rich chondrules contain no resolvable 26Mg*. If chondrules and CAIs formed from an isotopically homogeneous reservoir, then the chondrules with 26Al must have formed or been last altered ∼2 million years after CAIs formed; the 26Mg*-free chondrules formed >1 to 3 million years later still. Because 26Mg*-containing and 26Mg*-free chondrules are both found in Chainpur, which was not heated to more than ∼400°C, it follows that parent body metamorphism cannot explain the absence of 26Mg* in some of these chondrules. Rather, its absence indicates that the lifetime of the solar nebula over which CAIs and chondrules formed extended over ∼5 million years.