Earth and Planetary Sciences ETDs


Molly Wick

Publication Date



Chondrites are samples from undifferentiated asteroids that contain components that formed in the early solar system. One of the components found in chondrites is chondrules, which are small igneous spherules that formed from the melting of precursor dust ball assemblages during very short, high-temperature events in the solar nebula. Chondrules typically contain olivine and pyroxene, a glassy mesostasis, Fe-Ni metal, and sulfides. Type I chondrules contain FeO-poor and volatile-poor mineral assemblages. Approximately 10% of type I chondrules, including type IA, IAB, and IB textures, also contain igneous plagioclase. While dynamic cooling experiments have put constraints on the formation conditions of chondrules based on olivine and pyroxene textures and morphologies, plagioclase has not been produced in previous experimental chondrule analogs. In this study, we investigated common chondrule textures in CO chondrites and determined mineral and bulk compositions for plagioclase-bearing type I chondrules in CO chondrites. We also performed one-atmosphere dynamic cooling experiments in order to establish formation conditions for type I chondrules. We attempted to optimize conditions for plagioclase nucleation and growth by conducting experiments at slow cooling rates, low quench temperatures, in the presence of a Na-rich atmosphere, and with anorthite seeds present in the starting material. Experimental run products closely resemble textures of type I chondrules in ordinary and carbonaceous chondrites. Olivine is commonly poikilitically enclosed in euhedral low-Ca pyroxene. Ca-pyroxene appears as overgrowths on larger low-Ca pyroxene grains. Compositions of olivine, pyroxene, and mesostasis from experimental charges are also very similar to those observed in natural chondrules. Therefore, peak temperatures (1500 - 1600°C) and slow cooling rates (5 - 25°C/hr) used are plausible conditions for type I chondrule formation. These conditions are also predicted by the shock wave model for chondrule formation. While our experiments were conducted at conditions that we considered optimized for plagioclase crystallization, plagioclase was not observed in any experiment. Defining the conditions necessary for plagioclase nucleation may place important constraints on chondrule thermal histories.

Degree Name

Earth and Planetary Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Shearer, Charles

Second Committee Member

Brearley, Adrian

Third Committee Member

Selverstone, Jane

Project Sponsors

National Aeronautics and Space Administration




Chondrule, Petrology, Chondrite, Experiment, Kainsaz, CO

Document Type