EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 409, Number 2, October II 2003
Page(s) L9 - L12
Section Letters
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20031238

A&A 409, L9-L12 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20031238


Gamma-ray bursts and X-ray melting of material to form chondrules and planets

P. Duggan1, B. McBreen1, A. J. Carr2, E. Winston1, G. Vaughan3, L. Hanlon1,

S. McBreen1, L. Metcalfe4, Å. Kvick3 and A. E. Terry3

1  Department of Experimental Physics, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
2  Mechanical Engineering Department, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
3  European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, BP 220, 38043 Grenoble Cedex, France
4  XMM-Newton science Operations Center, European Space Agency, Villafranca del Castillo, 28080 Madrid, Spain

(Received 19 June 2003 / Accepted 8 August 2003 )

Chondrules are millimeter sized objects of spherical to irregular shape that constitute the major component of chondritic meteorites that originate in the region between Mars and Jupiter and which fall to Earth. They appear to have solidified rapidly from molten or partially molten drops. The heat source that melted the chondrules remains uncertain. The intense radiation from a gamma-ray burst (GRB) is capable of melting material at distances up to 300 light years. These conditions were created in the laboratory for the first time when millimeter sized pellets were placed in a vacuum chamber in the white synchrotron beam at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). The pellets were rapidly heated in the X-ray and gamma-ray furnace to above 1400 °C melted and cooled. This process heats from the inside unlike normal furnaces. The melted spherical samples were examined with a range of techniques and found to have microstructural properties similar to the chondrules that come from meteorites. This experiment demonstrates that GRBs can melt precursor material to form chondrules that may subsequently influence the formation of planets. This work extends the field of laboratory astrophysics to include high power synchrotron sources.

Key words: methods: laboratory -- gamma rays: bursts -- X-rays: general planetary systems: formation -- solar system: general

Offprint request: B. McBreen, brian.mcbreen@ucd.ie

© ESO 2003