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- Chemie der Erde
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- National Science Foundation
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Abstract Earth’s habitability is closely tied to its late-stage accretion, during which impactors delivered the majority of life-essential volatiles. However, the nature of these final building blocks remains poorly constrained. Nickel (Ni) can be a useful tracer in characterizing this accretion as most Ni in the bulk silicate Earth (BSE) comes from the late-stage impactors. Here, we apply Ni stable isotope analysis to a large number of meteorites and terrestrial rocks, and find that the BSE has a lighter Ni isotopic composition compared to chondrites. Using first-principles calculations based on density functional theory, we show that core-mantle differentiation cannot produce the observed light Ni isotopic composition of the BSE. Rather, the sub-chondritic Ni isotopic signature was established during Earth’s late-stage accretion, probably through the Moon-forming giant impact. We propose that a highly reduced sulfide-rich, Mercury-like body, whose mantle is characterized by light Ni isotopic composition, collided with and merged into the proto-Earth during the Moon-forming giant impact, producing the sub-chondritic Ni isotopic signature of the BSE, while delivering sulfur and probably other volatiles to the Earth.
Earth’s status as the only life-sustaining planet is a result of the timing and delivery mechanism of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), and hydrogen (H). On the basis of their isotopic signatures, terrestrial volatiles are thought to have derived from carbonaceous chondrites, while the isotopic compositions of nonvolatile major and trace elements suggest that enstatite chondrite–like materials are the primary building blocks of Earth. However, the C/N ratio of the bulk silicate Earth (BSE) is superchondritic, which rules out volatile delivery by a chondritic late veneer. In addition, if delivered during the main phase of Earth’s accretion, then, owing to the greater siderophile (metal loving) nature of C relative to N, core formation should have left behind a subchondritic C/N ratio in the BSE. Here, we present high pressure-temperature experiments to constrain the fate of mixed C-N-S volatiles during core-mantle segregation in the planetary embryo magma oceans and show that C becomes much less siderophile in N-bearing and S-rich alloys, while the siderophile character of N remains largely unaffected in the presence of S. Using the new data and inverse Monte Carlo simulations, we show that the impact of a Mars-sized planet, having minimal contributions from carbonaceous chondrite-like materialmore »
Terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are differentiated into three layers: a metallic core, a silicate shell (mantle and crust), and a volatile envelope of gases, ices, and, for the Earth, liquid water. Each layer has different dominant elements (e.g., increasing iron content with depth and increasing oxygen content to the surface). Chondrites, the building blocks of the terrestrial planets, have mass and atomic proportions of oxygen, iron, magnesium, and silicon totaling ≥ 90% and variable Mg/Si (∼ 25%), Fe/Si (factor of ≥2), and Fe/O (factor of ≥ 3). What remains an unknown is to what degree did physical processes during nebular disk accretion versus those during post-nebular disk accretion (e.g., impact erosion) influence these planets final bulk compositions. Here we predict terrestrial planet compositions and show that their core mass fractions and uncompressed densities correlate with their heliocentric distance, and follow a simple model of the magnetic field strength in the protoplanetary disk. Our model assesses the distribution of iron in terms of increasing oxidation state, aerodynamics, and a decreasing magnetic field strength outward from the Sun, leading to decreasing core size of the terrestrial planets with radial distance. This distribution enhances habitability in our solar systemmore »
Magma oceans were once ubiquitous in the early solar system, setting up the initial conditions for different evolutionary paths of planetary bodies. In particular, the redox conditions of magma oceans may have profound influence on the redox state of subsequently formed mantles and the overlying atmospheres. The relevant redox buffering reactions, however, remain poorly constrained. Using first-principles simulations combined with thermodynamic modeling, we show that magma oceans of Earth, Mars, and the Moon are likely characterized with a vertical gradient in oxygen fugacity with deeper magma oceans invoking more oxidizing surface conditions. This redox zonation may be the major cause for the Earth’s upper mantle being more oxidized than Mars’ and the Moon’s. These contrasting redox profiles also suggest that Earth’s early atmosphere was dominated by CO2and H2O, in contrast to those enriched in H2O and H2for Mars, and H2and CO for the Moon.
Comparing compositional models of the terrestrial planets provides insights into physicochemical processes that produced planet-scale similarities and differences. The widely accepted compositional model for Mars assumes Mn and more refractory elements are in CI chondrite proportions in the planet, including Fe, Mg, and Si, which along with O make up >90% of the mass of Mars. However, recent improvements in our understandings on the composition of the solar photosphere and meteorites challenge the use of CI chondrite as an analog of Mars. Here we present an alternative model composition for Mars that avoids such an assumption and is based on data from Martian meteorites and spacecraft observations. Our modeling method was previously applied to predict the Earth’s composition. The model establishes the absolute abundances of refractory lithophile elements in the bulk silicate Mars (BSM) at 2.26 times higher than that in CI carbonaceous chondrites. Relative to this chondritic composition, Mars has a systematic depletion in moderately volatile lithophile elements as a function of their condensation temperatures. Given this finding, we constrain the abundances of siderophile and chalcophile elements in the bulkMars and its core. The Martian volatility trend is consistent with <7 wt% S in its core, which is significantlymore »