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Formation and evolution of the solar system and the planets

Animators : Yves Marrocchi & Evelyn Füri

Permanent investigators : Guillaume Caro, Camille Cartier, François Faure, Jessica Flahaut, Evelyn Füri, Andrey Gurenko, Béatrice Luais, Yves Marrocchi, Bernard Marty, Laurette Piani, Laurent Tissandier, Johan Villeneuve

Postdoc fellows :

Michael Broadley, Célia Dalou,

PhD students :

Lionel Vacher (2015-2018), Guillaume Florin (2016-2019), David Bekaert (2017-2020) Julien Boulliung (2017-2020) Marion Auxerre (2018-2021)


The classical model of solar system formation involves the gravitational collapse of a cloud of gas and dust, its warming, the creation of a central star, the cooling of the cloud by expansion and loss of matter, the formation of increasingly massive bodies, and finally the formation and stabilisation of a succession of planets. This model is based on two approaches, astronomical observations of other star systems and the analysis of material available in the solar system (the Earth and the Moon, Mars via SNCs, meteorites, and certain astronomical measurements of giant planets and comets). Although this model is still widely in use, we do not yet know the exact origin of the matter in the solar system (in particular, whether isotopic anomalies are inherited or result from gas-radiation interactions in the disc), the formation timeline of the central star and first solids, or the role of shocks as an alternative to the evaporation-condensation model. The period covered in this project is that of the accretion disc, during which time the Sun was being built from the mixture of gas and dust inherited from the interstellar environment. The most recent results show that many processes that were previously considered to be hierarchical (condensation, the formation of chondrules, the accretion of chondrites and planetesimals, the differentiation of planetesimals, and the accretion of embryos and, finally, of planets) are, in fact, largely synchronous. This finding significantly changes our view of the early evolution of the solar system. A new understanding of the possible sequence of these processes, of the possible relationships of cause and effect, and of their locations, both temporal and "geographical", within the disc becomes necessary. This understanding is the objective of this study, which will combine mineralogical, chemical, and isotopic studies of extraterrestrial matter ; experimental simulations ; and astrophysical models. One of the essential aspects of this work is the correlation between the young solar system (as described through meteorites) and young stars and their discs (as observed by astrophysicists).

Formation and evolution of regoliths
Chondrules as probes of the physico-chemical conditions of the disc
Simulation and dating of condensation processes
Radiation-matter interaction in the disc

Earth and Primitive Life

The Hadean (3.8 to 4.5 Gy) and Archean (2.4 to 3.8 Gy) eons represent key periods in the history of the Earth. Our understanding of that time period is obscured by the extreme rarity of rocks older than 3.5 Gy, but we know that it began with the fusion of the mantle during the lunar impact and that it continued with the establishment of a differentiated crust and a proto-atmosphere at 4.45 Gy. It has also been suggested that the Hadean period witnessed the appearance of the first life forms in a relatively warm primitive ocean that could have been formed at 4.3 Gy.

Despite these major advances, the evolution of the young Earth and its fluid envelopes remains subject to numerous uncertainties. On the one hand, our knowledge of Hadean geology is almost exclusively based on the study of zircons from the Jack Hills (<4.4 Gy). While these exceptional specimens have served to establish a geodynamic and compositional model for the Hadean lithosphere, it is unclear whether these constraints can be generalised for the entire planet or whether they represent a mode of crustal growth that would remain marginal until the end of the Archean period. As for the composition of the ocean and atmosphere, these can be understood only through the isotopic and chemical record of the supposedly oldest sediments, which are Banded Iron Formations (BIFS), cherts, or barites. The study of these sediments requires the development of specific tracers to overcome the secondary disturbances that have invariably affected the oldest terrestrial rocks.

Our research focuses on three main areas that aim to better understand and quantify i) the geodynamic processes at work during the first billion years, ii) the physico-chemical parameters (T, PCO2...) of the ocean-atmosphere system, and iii) the early stages of the evolution of life on our planet. These studies are based on the development of innovative isotopic tools that rely on the CRPG analytical facilities (ion probes, noble gas mass spectrometers, TIMS, and next-generation ICP-MS), and on the geological exploration of Archean cratons in search of a geological record from this period of Earth’s history.

Hadean Geology : From the lunar impact to the creation of the first continents
Composition and temperature of Archean Oceans
Evolution of the Precambrian atmosphere
Biosignatures and Primitive Life

Recent publications


Anzures, B. A., S. W. Parman, R. E. Milliken, O. Namur, C. Cartier, and S. Wang. "Effect of sulfur speciation on chemical and physical properties of very reduced mercurian melts." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 286 (2020): 1–18.
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Barosch, J., D. C. Hezel, Y. Marrocchi, A. Gurenko, and C. Lenting. "An unusual compound object in Yamato 793408 (H3.2-an) : The missing link between compound chondrules and macrochondrules ?" Meteoritics & Planetary Science (2020): 1–13.
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Barosch, J., D. C. Hezel, L. Sawatzki, L. Halbauer, and Y. Marrocchi. "Sectioning effects of porphyritic chondrules : Implications for the PP/POP/PO classification and correcting modal abundances of mineralogically zoned chondrules." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55, no. 5 (2020): 993–999.
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Boulliung, J., E. Füri, C. Dalou, L. Tissandier, L. Zimmermann, and Y. Marrocchi. "Oxygen fugacity and melt composition controls on nitrogen solubility in silicate melts." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 284 (2020): 120–133.
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Cartier, C., O. Namur, L. R. Nittler, S. Z. Weider, E. Crapster-Pregont, A. Vorburger, E. A. Franck, and B. Charlier. "No FeS layer in Mercury? Evidence from Ti/Al measured by MESSENGER." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 534 (2020): 116108.
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Faure, F. "Early silica crust formation in planetesimals by metastable silica-rich liquid immiscibility or cristobalite crystallisation: the possible origin of silica-rich chondrules." Scientific Reports (2020).
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Füri, E., L. Zimmermann, E. Deloule, and R. Trappitsch. "Cosmic ray effects on the isotope composition of hydrogen and noble gases in lunar samples: Insights from Apollo 12018." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 550 (2020): 116550.
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Flahaut, J., J. Carpenter, J. P. Williams, M. Anand, I. A. Crawford, W. van Westrenen, E. Füri, L. Xiao, and S. Zhao. "Regions of interest (ROI) for future exploration missions to the lunar South Pole." Planetary and Space Science 180 (2020): 104750.
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Florin, G., B. Luais, T. Rushmer, and O. Alard. "Influence of redox processes on the germanium isotopic composition of ordinary chondrites." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 269 (2020): 270–291.
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Joy, K. H., R. Tartèse, S. Messenger, M. E. Zolensky, Y. Marrocchi, D. R. Frank, and D. A. Kring. "The isotopic composition of volatiles in the unique Bench Crater carbonaceous chondrite impactor found in the Apollo 12 regolith." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 540 (2020): 116265.
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Martinot, M., J. Flahaut, S. Besse, C. Quantin-Nataf, and W. van Westrenen. "Mineralogical survey of the anorthositic Feldspathic Highlands Terrane crust using Moon Mineralogy Mapper data." Icarus 345 (2020): 113747.
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Piani, L., Y. Marrocchi, T. Rigaudier, L. G. Vacher, D. Thomassin, and B. Marty. "Earth’s water may have been inherited from material similar to enstatite chondrite meteorites." Science 369, no. 6507 (2020): 1110–1113.
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Piralla, M., Y. Marrocchi, M. J. Verdier-Paoletti, L. G. Vacher, J. Villeneuve, L. Piani, D. V. Bekaert, and M. Gounelle. "Primordial water and dust of the Solar System: Insights from in situ oxygen measurements of CI chondrites." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 269 (2020): 451–464.
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Schnuriger, N., J. Flahaut, M. Martinot, and S. D. Chevrel. "Long-lived volcanism expressed through mare infilling, domes and IMPs in the Arago region of the Moon." Planetary and Space Science 185 (2020): 104901.
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Vacher, L., L. Piani, T. Rigaudier, T. Thomassin, G. Florin, M. Piralla, and Y. Marrocchi. "Hydrogen in chondrites: Influence of parent body alteration and atmospheric contamination on primordial components." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 281 (2020): 53–66.
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Villeneuve, J., Y. Marrocchi, and E. Jacquet. "Silicon isotopic compositions of chondrule silicates in carbonaceous chondrites and the formation of primordial solids in the accretion disk." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 542 (2020): 116318.
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Aerts, J. W., R. J. M. van Spanning, J. Flahaut, D. Molenaar, P. H. Bland, M. J. Genge, P. Ehrenfreund, and Z. Martins. "Microbial communities in sediments from four mildly acidic ephemeral salt lakes in the Yilgarn Craton (Australia) – Terrestrial analogs to ancient Mars." Frontiers in Microbiology 10 (2019).
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Barnouin, O. S., M. G. Daly, et al & The OSIRIS-REx Team., and B. Marty. "Shape of (101955) Bennu indicative of a rubble pile with internal stiffness." Nature Geoscience 12 (2019): 247–252.
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Bekaert, D., M. S. Gudipati, B. Henderson, and B. Marty. "Coulomb explosion of multiply ionized xenon in water ice." Geochemical Journal 53, no. 81 (2019): 69.
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Bekaert, D., Y. Marrocchi, A. Meshik, L. Remusat, and B. Marty. "Primordial heavy noble gases in the pristine Paris carbonaceous chondrite." Meteoritics and Planetary Science 54, no. 2 (2019): 395–414.
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More publications