Status Report

Moonfalls: Collisions between the Earth and its past moons

By SpaceRef Editor
May 2, 2018
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Uri Malamud, Hagai B. Perets, Christoph Schafer, Christoph Burger
(Submitted on 30 Apr 2018)

During the last stages of the terrestrial planet formation, planets grow mainly through giant-impacts with large planetary embryos. The Earth’s Moon was suggested to form through one of these impacts. However, since the proto-Earth has experienced many giant-impacts, several moons are naturally expected to form through a sequence of multiple (including smaller scale) impacts. Each impact potentially forms a sub-Lunar mass moonlet that interacts gravitationally with the proto-Earth and possibly with previously-formed moonlets. Such interactions result in either moonlet-moonlet mergers, moonlet ejections or infall of moonlets on the Earth. The latter possibility, leading to low-velocity moonlet-Earth collisions is explored here for the first time. We make use of SPH simulations and consider a range of moonlet masses, collision impact-angles and initial proto-Earth rotation rates. We find that grazing/tidal-collisions are the most frequent and produce comparable fractions of accreted-material and debris. The latter typically clump in smaller moonlets that can potentially later interact with other moonlets. Other collision geometries are more rare. Head-on collisions do not produce much debris and are effectively perfect mergers. Intermediate impact angles result in debris mass-fractions in the range of 2-25% where most of the material is unbound. Retrograde collisions produce more debris than prograde collisions, whose fractions depend on the proto-Earth initial rotation rate. Moonfalls can slightly change the rotation-rate of the proto-Earth. Accreted moonfall material is highly localized, potentially explaining the isotopic heterogeneities in highly siderophile elements in terrestrial rocks, and possibly forming primordial super-continent topographic features. Our results can be used for simple scaling laws and applied to n-body studies of the formation of the Earth and Moon.

Subjects:    Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as:    arXiv:1805.00019 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1805.00019v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Uri Malamud
[v1] Mon, 30 Apr 2018 18:00:01 GMT (687kb)

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