Research Article

The Oxygen Isotopic Composition of the Sun Inferred from Captured Solar Wind

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Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1528-1532
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204636

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All planetary materials sampled thus far vary in their relative abundance of the major isotope of oxygen, 16O, such that it has not been possible to define a primordial solar system composition. We measured the oxygen isotopic composition of solar wind captured and returned to Earth by NASA’s Genesis mission. Our results demonstrate that the Sun is highly enriched in 16O relative to the Earth, Moon, Mars, and bulk meteorites. Because the solar photosphere preserves the average isotopic composition of the solar system for elements heavier than lithium, we conclude that essentially all rocky materials in the inner solar system were enriched in 17O and 18O, relative to 16O, by ~7%, probably via non–mass-dependent chemistry before accretion of the first planetesimals.

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