In situ identification of a CAI candidate in 81P/Wild 2 cometary dust by confocal high resolution synchrotron X-ray fluorescence

ArticleinGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73(18):5483-5492 · September 2009with12 Reads
Impact Factor: 4.33 · DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2009.06.008


    We detected additional CAI-like material in STARDUST mission samples of comet 81P/Wild 2. Two highly refractory cometary dust fragments were identified in the impact track 110 [C2012, 0, 110, 0, 0] by applying high resolution synchrotron induced confocal and conventional XRF analysis (HR SR-XRF). The use of a polycapillary lens in front of the detector for confocal spectroscopy dramatically improves the fidelity of particle measurements by removing contribution from the surrounding aerogel. The high spatial resolution (300 × 300 nm2; 300 × 1000 nm2) obtained allowed the detailed non-destructive in situ (trapped in aerogel) study of impacted grains at the sub-μm level.For the two largest particles of the track, the terminal particle and a second particle along the impact track, Ca concentration is up to 30 times higher than CI and Ti is enriched by a factor of 2 compared to CI. High resolution (HR) SR-XRF mapping also reveals that the highest concentrations of Ca, Ti, Fe (and Ni) measured within each grain belongs to different areas of the respective maps which indicate that the particles are composed of several chemically diverse mineral phases. This is in agreement with the finding of a complex phase assemblage of highly refractory minerals in the first ever detected Stardust mission CAI grain “Inti” of Track 25.Principle component analysis (PCA) is a powerful tool for extracting the dominant mineral components and was applied to the two grains indicating that regions in the terminal particle and the second particle are consistent with anorthite or grossite and gehlenite, monticellite or Dmitryivanovite (CaAl2O4), respectively.Our new findings demonstrate that the HR SR-XRF with confocal geometry and PCA analysis is capable of identifying CAI-like fragments without the need to extract particles from the aerogel matrix which is a time-consuming, complex and destructive process.Furthermore, the detection of new CAI-like fragments in the coma dust of comet 81P/Wild 2 strengthens the observation that strong mixing effects and, therefore, mass transport before or during comet formation must have occurred at least up to the region where Kuiper Belt comets formed (∼30 AU).