The Earth could lose somewhere between ten and 60 percent of its atmosphere in a collision believed to have formed the moon.
A new study led by the University of Durham, UK, shows how the degree of atmospheric loss depends on the type of giant impact with the Earth.
Researchers have conducted more than 300 supercomputer simulations to study the effects that various huge collisions have on rocky planets with a thin atmosphere.
Their findings have led to the development of a new way to predict atmospheric losses from any collisions in a wide range of rocky planetary impacts that could be used by scientists investigating the origin of the moon or other giant impacts.
They also found that slow giant shocks between young planets and massive objects could add a significant atmosphere to a planet if the striking element also had a lot of atmosphere.
The findings are published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The moon is thought to have formed about 4.5 billion years ago after a collision between early Earth and a giant impact element, possibly the size of Mars.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Jacob Kegerase of the Institute of Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham, said:
“We conducted hundreds of different scenarios for many different colliding planets, showing the different impacts and effects on the planet’s atmosphere depending on a number of factors such as the angle, impact speed or size of the planets.
“Although these computer simulations do not tell us directly how the moon formed, the effects on the Earth’s atmosphere can be used to narrow the different ways in which it may have formed and bring us closer to understanding the origin of the moon. our nearest heavenly neighbor. “
Earlier this year, an initial study from the University of Durham reported that the giant impacts that dominate the late stages of planet formation could have a wide range of consequences for young planets and their atmospheres.
This study explores ways in which thin atmospheres can be removed by objects acting at different angles and speeds.
The researchers’ latest article looks at the effects of a much wider variety of impacts, correcting the size, mass, speed and angle of the impact object. They also change the density of the impact element and if it is made of iron, rock or both.
Simulations reveal different results when one or more of these variables change, leading to atmospheric losses or gains or sometimes to the complete erasure of the affected planet.
The research team also included scientists from the BAERI / NASA Ames Research Center and the University of Washington, USA and the University of Glasgow, UK.
Co-author Dr Luis Teodoro of the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow and the BAERI / NASA Ames Research Center said: “This basic set of planetary simulations also sheds light on the role of influences in evolutionary earth as exoplanets. ”
The supercomputer reveals the atmospheric impact of giant planetary collisions
Atmospheric erosion from giant impacts on terrestrial planets: A law of scaling for every velocity, angle, mass, and density, Kegerreis J, et al, will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, DOI: 10.3847 / 2041-8213 / abb5fb
Provided by the University of Durham
Quote: Simulations of a planetary collision provide evidence of atmospheric losses from the origin of the Moon (2020, September 29), extracted on September 30, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-09-planet-collision- simulations-clues-atmospheric.html
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