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Uneven distribution of aluminum-26 in early solar system revealed by 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite

A new study of a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite has revealed that the distribution of aluminum-26 (26Al), a radioactive isotope, was uneven throughout the early solar system. This finding could help scientists better understand the formation and evolution of our solar system.

Erg Chech 002 specimen. Credit: Yuri Amelin
Erg Chech 002 specimen. Credit: Yuri Amelin

The meteorite, called Erg Chech 002, was discovered in 2020 in the Sahara Desert in Algeria. It is an andesitic achondrite, a type of stony meteorite that is among the oldest known to date. 26Al was a major heat source for early planetary melting, and Erg Chech 002's old age provides an opportunity to further explore the initial distribution of 26Al within the early solar system.


The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, was conducted by a team of scientists led by Evgenii Krestianinov of the Australian National University. The team analyzed Erg Chech 002 and determined its lead-isotopic age as about 4.566 billion years old. They then combined this finding with existing data for this meteorite and compared this to other very old meteorites that crystallized from melts.

The authors found that 26Al had an uneven distribution within the early solar nebula. This suggests that the nebula was not a uniform mixture of materials, but rather that it was composed of different regions with different concentrations of 26Al. The authors believe that this uneven distribution of 26Al is likely due to the late infall of stellar materials with freshly synthesized radionuclides.


This finding has important implications for our understanding of the early solar system. It suggests that the nebula was not a simple, homogeneous mixture, but rather that it was a complex system with different regions with different properties. This could have implications for the formation and evolution of the planets, as well as the distribution of elements in the solar system.


The authors of the study suggest that meteorite chronology studies should be cautious and take a generalized approach for dating with short-lived isotopes that accounts for their uneven distribution. This will help to improve the accuracy and reliability of determining the ages of meteorites and planetary materials.


This study is a significant contribution to our understanding of the early solar system. It provides new insights into the formation and evolution of our planetary system, and it could help scientists to better understand the distribution of elements in the solar system.


Journal Information: Evgenii Krestianinov et al, Igneous meteorites suggest Aluminium-26 heterogeneity in the early Solar Nebula, Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-40026-1

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