Artist’s impression of the molten surface of early Earth (NASA)
When imagining how our planet formed 4.6 billion years ago from the protoplanetary disk surrounding our sun, images of large pieces of marauding space rock slamming into the molten surface of our proto-Earth likely come to mind.
But this conventional model of planetary creation may be missing a small, yet significant, detail. Those massive space rocks may not have been the conventional solid asteroids — they might have been massive balls of space mud.
This strange detail of planetary evolution is described in a new study published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) journal Science Advances and it kinda makes logical sense.
Using the wonderfully-named Mars and Asteroids Global Hydrology Numerical Model (or “MAGHNUM”), planetary scientists Phil Bland (Cornell University) and Bryan Travis (Planetary Science Institute) simulated the movement of material inside primordial carbonaceous chondrite asteroids — i.e. the earliest asteroids that formed from the sun’s protoplanetary disk that eventually went on to become the building blocks for Earth.
A simulated cross section of a 200-meter wide asteroid showing its internal temperature profile and convection currents (temperatures in Celsius). Credit: PSI
It turns out that these ...