NanoSIMS analysis and high resolution electron microscopy of silicate stardust grains from red giant stars and supernova explosions

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This thesis deals with the analysis of presolar silicates and oxides by high resolution mass spectrometry and electron microscopy techniques. This stardust was identified by its extreme oxygen isotopic anomalies, which point to nucleosynthetic reactions in stellar interiors, in the carbonaceous chondrite Acfer 094. Isotopic, chemical and mineralogical studies on these stardust grains therefore allow the testing of astrophysical questions on Earth, which are otherwise only accessible by spectroscopy and theoretical models. The class of presolar silicates has been identified only six years ago in 2002, although it was known already from spectroscopic observations that silicates represent the most abundant type of dust in the galaxy. The development of the NanoSIMS was a crucial step in this respect, because this ion probe with its superior spatial resolution of only 50 nm allowed the detection of the typically 300 nm sized presolar silicates. A total of 142 presolar silicates and 20 presolar oxides were identified within Acfer 094, whose matrix therefore contains 163 ± 14 ppm presolar silicates and 26 ± 6 ppm presolar oxides. This is among the highest amounts reported so far for any primitive solar system material. The majority of detected stardust grains derive from asymptotic giant branch stars of 1 2.5 Msun and close-to-solar or slightly lower-than-solar metallicity. However, by measuring the Si isotopic compositions of some enigmatic grains, it could be shown that there is a sub-class of presolar silicates characterized by an extreme enrichment of 17O and a moderate enhancement of 30Si relative to solar, whose origins might be explained by formation in binary stellar systems ...
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