The isotopic variability of the elements in our planet and Solar System is the end result of a complex mixture of processes, including variable production of isotopes in stars, ingrowth of daughter nuclides due to decay of radioactive parents, and selective incorporation of isotopes into solids, liquids, or gases as a function of their mass and/or nuclear volume. Interpreting the isotopic imprints that planetary formation and evolution have left in the rock and mineral record requires not only precise and accurate measurements but also an understanding of the drivers behind isotopic variability. Here, we introduce fundamental concepts needed to “read” the isotopic code, with particular emphasis on heavy stable isotope systems.

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