Evidence for magnesium isotope heterogenity in the solar protoplanetary disk

Astrophysical Journal, 735, L37

With a half-life of 0.73 Myr, the 26Al-to-26Mg decay system is the most widely used short-lived chronometer for understanding the formation and earliest evolution of the solar protoplanetary disk. However, the validity of 26Al–26Mg ages of meteorites and their components relies on the critical assumption that the canonical 26Al/27Al ratio of ∼5 × 10−5 recorded by the oldest dated solids, calcium–aluminium-rich inclusions (CAIs), represents the initial abundance of 26Al for the solar system as a whole. Here, we report high-precision Mg-isotope measurements of inner solar system solids, asteroids, and planets demonstrating the existence of widespread heterogeneity in the mass-independent 26Mg composition (μ26Mg*) of bulk solar system reservoirs with solar or near-solar Al/Mg ratios. This variability may represent heterogeneity in the initial abundance of 26Al across the solar protoplanetary disk at the time of CAI formation and/or Mg-isotope heterogeneity. By comparing the U–Pb and 26Al–26Mg ages of pristine solar system materials, we infer that the bulk of the μ26Mg* variability reflects heterogeneity in the initial abundance of 26Al across the solar protoplanetary disk. We conclude that the canonical value of ∼5 × 10−5 represents the average initial abundance of 26Al only in the CAI-forming region, and that large-scale heterogeneity—perhaps up to 80% of the canonical value—may have existed throughout the inner solar system. If correct, our interpretation of the Mg-isotope composition of inner solar system objects precludes the use of the 26Al–26Mg system as an accurate early solar system chronometer.