Solar cosmic-ray interaction with protoplanetary disks: Production of short-lived radionuclides and amorphization of crystalline material


Solar cosmic-ray (SCR) interactions with a protoplanetary disk have been invoked to explain several observations of primitive planetary materials. In our own Solar System, the presence of short-lived radionuclides (SLRs) in the oldest materials has been attributed to spallation reactions induced in phases that were irradiated by energetic particles in the solar nebula. Furthermore, observations of other protoplanetary disks show a mixture of crystalline and amorphous grains, though no correlation between grain crystallinity and disk or stellar properties have been identified. As most models for the origin of crystalline grains would predict such correlations, it was suggested that amorphization by stellar cosmic-rays may be masking or erasing such correlations. Here we quantitatively investigate these possibilities by modeling the interaction of energetic particles emitted by a young star with the surrounding protoplanetary disk. We do this by tracing the energy evolution of SCRs emitted from the young star through the disk and model the amount of time that dust grains would spend in regions where they would be exposed to these particles. We find that this irradiation scenario cannot explain the total SLR content of the solar nebula; however, this scenario could play a role in the amorphization of crystalline material at different locations or epochs of the disk over the course of its evolution.

The Astrophysical Journal