Silicon isotope constraints on terrestrial planet accretion

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Understanding the nature and origin of the precursor material to terrestrial planets is key to deciphering the mechanisms and timescales of planet formation1. Nucleosynthetic variability among rocky Solar System bodies can trace the composition of planetary building blocks2–5. Here we report the nucleosynthetic composition of silicon (μ30Si), the most abundant refractory planet-building element, in primitive and differentiated meteorites to identify terrestrial planet precursors. Inner Solar System differentiated bodies, including Mars, record μ30Si deficits of −11.0 ± 3.2 parts per million to −5.8 ± 3.0 parts per million whereas non-carbonaceous and carbonaceous chondrites show μ30Si excesses from 7.4 ± 4.3 parts per million to 32.8 ± 2.0 parts per million relative to Earth. This establishes that chondritic bodies are not planetary building blocks. Rather, material akin to early-formed differentiated asteroids must represent a major planetary constituent. The μ30Si values of asteroidal bodies correlate with their accretion ages, reflecting progressive admixing of a μ30Si-rich outer Solar System material to an initially μ30Si-poor inner disk. Mars’ formation before chondrite parent bodies is necessary to avoid incorporation of μ30Si-rich material. In contrast, Earth’s μ30Si composition necessitates admixing of 26 ± 9 per cent of μ30Si-rich outer Solar System material to its precursors. The μ30Si compositions of Mars and proto-Earth are consistent with their rapid formation by collisional growth and pebble accretion less than three million years after Solar System formation. Finally, Earth’s nucleosynthetic composition for s-process sensitive (molybdenum and zirconium) and siderophile (nickel) tracers are consistent with pebble accretion when volatility-driven processes during accretion and the Moon-forming impact are carefully evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7970
Pages (from-to)539-544
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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