The Generation of Lightning in the Solar Nebula

Steven Desch, J. N. Cuzzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

133 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The process that melted and formed the chondrules, millimeter-sized glassy beads within meteorites, has not been conclusively identified. Origin by lightning in the solar nebula is consistent with many features of chondrules, but no viable model of lightning has yet been advanced. We present a model demonstrating how lightning could be generated in the solar nebula which differs from previous models in two important aspects. First, we identify a new, powerful charging mechanism that is based on the differences in contact potentials between particles of different composition, a form of triboelectric charging. In the presence of fine silicate grains and fine iron metal grains, large silicate particles (the chondrules) can acquire charges ≳+105e. Second, we assume that the chondrule precursor particles are selectively concentrated in clumps ~100 km in size by the turbulent concentration mechanism described by J. N. Cuzzi et al. (1996, in Chondrules and the Protoplanetary Disk, pp. 35-43, Cambridge Univ. Press). The concentration of these highly charged particles into clumps, in a background of negatively charged metal grains, is what generates the strong electric fields. We calculate that electric fields large enough to trigger breakdown easily could have existed over regions large enough (~100 km) to generate very large discharges of electrical energy (~1016 erg), assuming a lightning bolt width ≲10 electron mean-free paths. The discharges would have been sufficiently energetic to have formed the chondrules. We place constraints on the generation of lightning and conclude that it could not be generated if the abundance of 26Al in chondrules was as high as the level in the calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs). This conclusion is consistent with isotopic analyses of chondrules. This possibly implies that 26Al was nonuniformly distributed in the solar nebula or that the chondrules formed several million years after the CAIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-105
Number of pages19
JournalIcarus
Volume143
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

chondrule
solar nebula
lightning
clumps
charging
electric field
calcium
silicates
silicate
aluminum
inclusions
bolts
contact potentials
protoplanetary disks
electric fields
metal
bolt
meteorites
electric power
beads

Keywords

  • Chondrules
  • Dust
  • Lightning
  • Meteorites
  • Origin
  • Solar nebula
  • Solar System
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

The Generation of Lightning in the Solar Nebula. / Desch, Steven; Cuzzi, J. N.

In: Icarus, Vol. 143, No. 1, 01.2000, p. 87-105.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Desch, Steven ; Cuzzi, J. N. / The Generation of Lightning in the Solar Nebula. In: Icarus. 2000 ; Vol. 143, No. 1. pp. 87-105.
@article{1236a9fa692d46f6a7cffa9bed2c289f,
title = "The Generation of Lightning in the Solar Nebula",
abstract = "The process that melted and formed the chondrules, millimeter-sized glassy beads within meteorites, has not been conclusively identified. Origin by lightning in the solar nebula is consistent with many features of chondrules, but no viable model of lightning has yet been advanced. We present a model demonstrating how lightning could be generated in the solar nebula which differs from previous models in two important aspects. First, we identify a new, powerful charging mechanism that is based on the differences in contact potentials between particles of different composition, a form of triboelectric charging. In the presence of fine silicate grains and fine iron metal grains, large silicate particles (the chondrules) can acquire charges ≳+105e. Second, we assume that the chondrule precursor particles are selectively concentrated in clumps ~100 km in size by the turbulent concentration mechanism described by J. N. Cuzzi et al. (1996, in Chondrules and the Protoplanetary Disk, pp. 35-43, Cambridge Univ. Press). The concentration of these highly charged particles into clumps, in a background of negatively charged metal grains, is what generates the strong electric fields. We calculate that electric fields large enough to trigger breakdown easily could have existed over regions large enough (~100 km) to generate very large discharges of electrical energy (~1016 erg), assuming a lightning bolt width ≲10 electron mean-free paths. The discharges would have been sufficiently energetic to have formed the chondrules. We place constraints on the generation of lightning and conclude that it could not be generated if the abundance of 26Al in chondrules was as high as the level in the calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs). This conclusion is consistent with isotopic analyses of chondrules. This possibly implies that 26Al was nonuniformly distributed in the solar nebula or that the chondrules formed several million years after the CAIs.",
keywords = "Chondrules, Dust, Lightning, Meteorites, Origin, Solar nebula, Solar System, Turbulence",
author = "Steven Desch and Cuzzi, {J. N.}",
year = "2000",
month = "1",
doi = "10.1006/icar.1999.6245",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "143",
pages = "87--105",
journal = "Icarus",
issn = "0019-1035",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Generation of Lightning in the Solar Nebula

AU - Desch, Steven

AU - Cuzzi, J. N.

PY - 2000/1

Y1 - 2000/1

N2 - The process that melted and formed the chondrules, millimeter-sized glassy beads within meteorites, has not been conclusively identified. Origin by lightning in the solar nebula is consistent with many features of chondrules, but no viable model of lightning has yet been advanced. We present a model demonstrating how lightning could be generated in the solar nebula which differs from previous models in two important aspects. First, we identify a new, powerful charging mechanism that is based on the differences in contact potentials between particles of different composition, a form of triboelectric charging. In the presence of fine silicate grains and fine iron metal grains, large silicate particles (the chondrules) can acquire charges ≳+105e. Second, we assume that the chondrule precursor particles are selectively concentrated in clumps ~100 km in size by the turbulent concentration mechanism described by J. N. Cuzzi et al. (1996, in Chondrules and the Protoplanetary Disk, pp. 35-43, Cambridge Univ. Press). The concentration of these highly charged particles into clumps, in a background of negatively charged metal grains, is what generates the strong electric fields. We calculate that electric fields large enough to trigger breakdown easily could have existed over regions large enough (~100 km) to generate very large discharges of electrical energy (~1016 erg), assuming a lightning bolt width ≲10 electron mean-free paths. The discharges would have been sufficiently energetic to have formed the chondrules. We place constraints on the generation of lightning and conclude that it could not be generated if the abundance of 26Al in chondrules was as high as the level in the calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs). This conclusion is consistent with isotopic analyses of chondrules. This possibly implies that 26Al was nonuniformly distributed in the solar nebula or that the chondrules formed several million years after the CAIs.

AB - The process that melted and formed the chondrules, millimeter-sized glassy beads within meteorites, has not been conclusively identified. Origin by lightning in the solar nebula is consistent with many features of chondrules, but no viable model of lightning has yet been advanced. We present a model demonstrating how lightning could be generated in the solar nebula which differs from previous models in two important aspects. First, we identify a new, powerful charging mechanism that is based on the differences in contact potentials between particles of different composition, a form of triboelectric charging. In the presence of fine silicate grains and fine iron metal grains, large silicate particles (the chondrules) can acquire charges ≳+105e. Second, we assume that the chondrule precursor particles are selectively concentrated in clumps ~100 km in size by the turbulent concentration mechanism described by J. N. Cuzzi et al. (1996, in Chondrules and the Protoplanetary Disk, pp. 35-43, Cambridge Univ. Press). The concentration of these highly charged particles into clumps, in a background of negatively charged metal grains, is what generates the strong electric fields. We calculate that electric fields large enough to trigger breakdown easily could have existed over regions large enough (~100 km) to generate very large discharges of electrical energy (~1016 erg), assuming a lightning bolt width ≲10 electron mean-free paths. The discharges would have been sufficiently energetic to have formed the chondrules. We place constraints on the generation of lightning and conclude that it could not be generated if the abundance of 26Al in chondrules was as high as the level in the calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs). This conclusion is consistent with isotopic analyses of chondrules. This possibly implies that 26Al was nonuniformly distributed in the solar nebula or that the chondrules formed several million years after the CAIs.

KW - Chondrules

KW - Dust

KW - Lightning

KW - Meteorites

KW - Origin

KW - Solar nebula

KW - Solar System

KW - Turbulence

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0002360249&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0002360249&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1006/icar.1999.6245

DO - 10.1006/icar.1999.6245

M3 - Article

VL - 143

SP - 87

EP - 105

JO - Icarus

JF - Icarus

SN - 0019-1035

IS - 1

ER -