The Geochemical Legacy of Low-Temperature, Percolation-Driven Core Formation in Planetesimals

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Abstract / Description of output

Mechanisms for core formation in differentiated bodies in the early solar system are poorly constrained. At temperatures below those required to extensively melt planetesimals, core formation could have proceeded via percolation of metallic liquids. Although there is some geochemical data to support such ‘low-temperature’ segregation, experimental studies and simulations suggest that percolation-driven segregation might have only contributed to core formation in a proportion of fully-differentiated bodies. Here, the effects low-temperature core-formation on elemental compositions of planetesimal cores and mantles are explored. Immiscibility of Fe-rich and FeS-rich liquids will occur in all core-formation models, including those involving large fraction silicate melting. Light element content of cores (Si, O, C, P, S) depends on conditions under which Fe-rich and FeS-rich liquids segregated, especially pressure and oxygen fugacity. The S contents of FeS-rich liquids significantly exceed eutectic compositions in Fe–Ni–S systems and cannot be reconciled with S-contents of parent bodies to magmatic iron meteorites. Furthermore, there is limited data on trace element partitioning between FeS-rich and Fe-rich phases, and solid/melt partitioning models cannot be readily applied to FeS-rich liquids. Interaction of metallic liquids with minor phases stable up to low fraction silicate melting could provide a means for determining the extent of silicate melting prior to initiation of core-formation. However, element partitioning in most core-formation models remains poorly constrained, and it is likely that conditions under which segregation of metallic liquid occurred, especially oxygen fugacity and pressure, had as significant a control on planetesimal composition as segregation mechanisms and extent of silicate melting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalEarth, Moon, and Planets
Volume127
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023

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