Research Gets to the Core of Earth’s Formation
Violent collisions between the growing Earth and other objects in the solar system generated significant amounts of iron vapor, according to a new study by LLNL scientist Richard Kraus and colleagues.
The results show that iron vaporizes easily during impact events, which forces planetary scientists to change how they think about the growth of planets and evolution of our solar system.
For planetary scientists, one of the most important and complex research areas is predicting how planets form and evolve to their current state. Generally speaking, planets form by a series of impacts, with the speed of the impacts being slow at first, a few miles per hour, but then faster as the planets grow larger, up to 100,000 miles per hour.
At the end stages of formation, when the impact speeds are high and the material conditions are extreme (high temperatures and pressures), planetary scientists don’t have great models for how to describe what happens to the colliding bodies.