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Pringle, EA, Savage PS, Badro J, Barrat J-A, Moynier F.  2013.  Redox state during core formation on asteroid 4-Vesta. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 373:75-82.   doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2013.04.012   Abstract

Core formation is the main differentiation event in the history of a planet. However, the chemical composition of planetary cores and the physicochemical conditions prevailing during core formation remain poorly understood. The asteroid 4-Vesta is the smallest extant planetary body known to have differentiated a metallic core. Howardite, Eucrite, Diogenite (HED) meteorites, which are thought to sample 4-Vesta, provide us with an opportunity to study core formation in planetary embryos.

Partitioning of elements between the core and mantle of a planet fractionates their isotopes according to formation conditions. One such element, silicon, shows large isotopic fractionation between metal and silicate, and its partitioning into a metallic core is only possible under very distinctive conditions of pressure, oxygen fugacity and temperature. Therefore, the silicon isotope system is a powerful tracer with which to study core formation in planetary bodies. Here we show through high- precision measurement of Si stable isotopes that HED meteorites are significantly enriched in the heavier isotopes compared to chondrites. This is consistent with the core of 4-Vesta containing at least 1 wt% of Si, which in turn suggests that 4-Vesta's differentiation occurred under more reducing conditions (ΔIW∼−4) than those previously suggested from analysis of the distribution of moderately siderophile elements in HEDs.

Pringle, EA, Moynier F.  2017.  Rubidium isotopic composition of the Earth, meteorites, and the Moon: Evidence for the origin of volatile loss during planetary accretion. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 473:62-70.   10.1016/j.epsl.2017.05.033   Abstract

Understanding the origin of volatile element variations in the inner Solar System has long been a goal of cosmochemistry, but many early studies searching for the fingerprint of volatile loss using stable isotope systems failed to find any resolvable variations.

An improved method for the chemical purification of Rb for high-precision isotope ratio measurements by multi-collector inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry. This method has been used to measure the Rb isotopic composition for a suite of planetary materials, including carbonaceous, ordinary, and enstatite chondrites, as well as achondrites (eucrite, angrite), terrestrial igneous rocks (basalt, andesite, granite), and Apollo lunar samples (mare basalts, alkali suite). Volatile depleted bodies (e.g. HED parent body, thermally metamorphosed meteorites) are enriched in the heavy isotope of Rb by up to several per mil compared to chondrites, suggesting volatile loss by evaporation at the surface of planetesimals. In addition, the Moon is isotopically distinct from the Moon in Rb. The variations in Rb isotope compositions in the volatile-poor samples are attributed to volatile loss from planetesimals during accretion. This suggests that either the Rb (and other volatile elements) were lost during or following the giant impact or by evaporation earlier during the accretion history of Theia.