How did the Earth and Mars form?
According to a recent study, Earth and Mars formed through collisions between large moon-sized rocks rather than the clumping together of microscopic pebbles over time.
The previous study has revealed that rocky planets like Earth are produced in one of two ways. The standard concept argues that in the early solar system, moon-to-Mars-sized boulders known as planetary embryos crashed together regularly. They finally came together to form full-scale universes. Small rocks from the outer solar system are thought to be migrating inward toward the sun in a more recent alternate theory. They accumulated throughout time to build stony planets, a process thought to be crucial in the construction of the cores of big planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
Scientists examined a total of 0.77 ounces (22 grams) of material from 17 meteorites to discover which hypothesis better describes how the solar system’s rocky planets formed. They came from Mars and were blasted off the planet by ancient asteroids before eventually making their way to Earth.
The researchers looked at how the isotopic makeup of these samples differed. Isotopes are different chemical elements with the same number of neutrons in their nucleus. For example, the core of uranium-234 has 142 neutrons, while the core of uranium-238 has 146 neutrons.
The study by Scientists and Researchers
The researchers compared the levels of titanium, zirconium, and molybdenum isotopes on Mars and Earth to those found in several groupings of meteorites from both the inner and outer solar systems. They discovered that Earth and Martian rocks were more similar to meteorites from the inner solar system, with only around 4% of their compositions approximating material from the outer solar system. The enormous number of Martian meteorites they studied helped them overcome discrepancies in previous research that looked at a smaller number of these rocks.
Overall, Christoph Burkhardt says, “we clarify conflicting interpretations of prior investigations and indicate that Earth and Mars were built predominantly from material that originated in the inner solar system.” He is a planetary scientist at the University of Münster in Germany and one of the study’s principal authors. Only a small percentage of the elements that make up these two planets came from beyond Jupiter’s orbit.
“There is no doubt that Jupiter, as the “king of the planets,” had an impact on events in the inner solar system,” Burkhardt said. “Without Jupiter, we might be sitting on a super-Earth or a mini-Neptune planet right now.”
The latest discoveries also show that debris from a collection of space rocks was likely absorbed into both Earth and Mars. They originate “most likely sunwards of Earth’s orbit,” according to Burkhardt, and are still unknown to scientists. “A sample with the predicted features among the ungrouped meteorites in our collections would be fantastic,” says the researcher.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Science Advances on December 22.