- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
This chapter reviews the origin and fate of sulfur (S) in silicate melts in the solar system, experiments bearing on the role of S in element partitioning among melts and solids in planets, and finally our current understanding of silicate melts and the role of sulfur in planetary evolution. Sulfur is an important component of undifferentiated meteorites that are precursors to planets. When planetary bodies differentiated into cores and mantles, metal and/or sulfides were removed from silicates. This process can be traced. Then, iron-sulfide cores differentiated into metal and metal-sulfide fractions, some of which are preserved as iron meteorites. The iron meteorites probably fractionated from silicate mantles at much lower pressures than the cores of Earth or Mars. Understanding the role of sulfur in silicate melts is critical to unraveling the history of Earth, the terrestrial planets, and the differentiated asteroids that were once parts of early planetesimals.
COSMOCHEMISTRY OF SULFUR
Silicate melts and sulfur in primitive source materials
Primitive extraterrestrial samples available for laboratory study include 1–20 μm cometary grains collected by the United States’ (NASA) Stardust mission, asteroidal material collected by the Japanese (JAXA) Hyabusa mission, interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) collected from the stratosphere by airplanes, micrometeorites from various collection sites, and meteorites that fall to Earth and are recovered. Sources of primitive meteorites are parent bodies, primarily asteroids, that did not differentiate into silicate mantles and metal-rich cores. The oldest dated solar system rocks are not bulk meteorites, but are the high-temperature, melted components of undifferentiated meteorites, which are a kind of cosmic sedimentary rock. These “chondritic” meteorites are slightly younger than the components that accreted to form them. They have atomic ratios of rock-forming elements (e.g., Fe/Si) that are very similar to those measured in the solar photosphere using spectroscopy. The “primitive” nature of meteorites is established by their radiometric ages, and their lack of aqueous and …