Formation of cosmic crystals in highly supersaturated silicate vapor produced by planetesimal bow shocks

H. Miura, K. K. Tanaka, T. Yamamoto, T. Nakamoto, J. Yamada, K. Tsukamoto, J. Nozawa

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Several lines of evidence suggest that fine silicate crystals observed in primitive meteorite and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) nucleated in a supersaturated silicate vapor followed by crystalline growth. We investigated evaporation of μm-sized silicate particles heated by a bow shock produced by a planetesimal orbiting in the gas in the early solar nebula and condensation of crystalline silicate from the vapor thus produced. Our numerical simulation of shock-wave heating showed that these μm-sized particles evaporate almost completely when the bow shock is strong enough to cause melting of chondrule precursor dust particles.We found that the silicate vapor cools very rapidly with expansion into the ambient unshocked nebular region; for instance, the cooling rate is estimated to be as high as 2000 K s-1 for a vapor heated by a bow shock associated with a planetesimal of radius 1 km. The rapid cooling of the vapor leads to nonequilibrium gas-phase condensation of dust at temperatures much lower than those expected from the equilibrium condensation. It was found that the condensation temperatures are lower by a few hundred K or more than the equilibrium temperatures. This explains the results of the recent experimental studies of condensation from a silicate vapor that condensation in such large supercooling reproduces morphologies similar to those of silicate crystals found in meteorites. Our results strongly suggest that the planetesimal bow shock is one of the plausible sites for formation of not only chondrules but also other cosmic crystals in the early solar system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-654
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Oct 8


  • Interplanetary medium
  • Meteorites, meteors, meteoroids
  • Planet-disk interactions
  • Planets and satellites: Formation
  • Shock waves


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