Exoplanets & Exomoons

Chemical Diversity of Super-Earths As a Consequence of Formation

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 24, 2020
Filed under
Chemical Diversity of Super-Earths As a Consequence of Formation
Super Earth

Recent observations of rocky super-Earths have revealed an apparent wider distribution of Fe/Mg ratios, or core to mantle ratios, than the planets in our Solar System. This study aims to understand how much of the chemical diversity in the super-Earth population can arise from giant impacts during planetary formation.

Planet formation simulations have only recently begun to treat collisions more realistically in an attempt to replicate the planets in our Solar System. We investigate planet formation more generally by simulating the formation of rocky super-Earths with varying initial conditions using a version of SyMBA, a gravitational N-body code, that incorporates realistic collisions. We track the maximum plausible change in composition after each impact.

The final planets span a range of Fe/Mg ratios similar to the Solar System planets, but do not completely match the distribution in super-Earth data. We only form a few planets with minor iron-depletion, suggesting other mechanisms are at work. The most iron-rich planets have a lower Fe/Mg ratio than Mercury, and are less enriched than planets such as Kepler-100b. This indicates that further work on our understanding of planet formation and further improvement of precision of mass and radius measurements are required to explain planets at the extremes of this Fe/Mg distribution.

Jennifer Scora, Diana Valencia, Alessandro Morbidelli, Seth A. Jacobson
(Submitted on 20 Feb 2020)
Comments: 15 pages, 14 figures. Accepted for publication in MNRAS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2002.09042 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2002.09042v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jennifer Scora
[v1] Thu, 20 Feb 2020 22:17:37 UTC (2,210 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻