Five hundred stony cosmic spherules collected from deep-sea sediments, polar ice, and the stratosphere have been analyzed for major and some minor element composition. Typical spherules are products of atmospheric melting of millimeter sized and smaller meteoroids. The samples are small and modified by atmospheric entry, but they are an important source of information on the composition of asteroids. The spherules in this study were all analyzed in an identical Manner, and they provide a sampling of the solar system's asteroids that is both different and less biased than provided by studies of conventional meteorites. Volatile elements such as Na and S are depleted due to atmospheric heating, while siderophiles are depleted by less understood causes. The refractory nonsiderophile elements appear not to have been significantly disturbed during atmospheric melting and provide important clues on the elemental composition of millimeter sized meteoroids colliding with the Earth. Typical spherules have CM-like composition that is distinctively different than ordinary chondrites and most other meteorite types. We assume that C-type asteroids are the primary origin of spherules with this composition. Type S asteroids should also be an important source of the spherules, and the analysis data provide constraints on their composition. A minor fraction of the spherules are melt products of precursor particles that did not have chondritic elemental compositions. The most common of these are particles that are dominated by olivine. The observed compositions of spherules are inconsistent with the possibility that an appreciable fraction of the spherules are simply chondrules remelted during atmospheric entry.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Open Access Status
Brownlee, D. E.; Bates, Beeway; and Schramm, L., "The Elemental Composition of Stony Cosmic Spherules" (1997). SIAS Faculty Publications. 8.