A Race Against The Clock: Constraining The Timing Of Cometary Bombardment Relative To Earth’s Growth

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
September 11, 2023
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A Race Against The Clock: Constraining The Timing Of Cometary Bombardment Relative To Earth’s Growth
Early Earth

Comets are considered a potential source of inner solar system volatiles, but the timing of this delivery relative to that of Earth’s accretion is still poorly understood.

Measurements of xenon isotopes in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko revealed that comets partly contributed to the Earth’s atmosphere. However, there is no conclusive evidence of a significant cometary component in the Earth’s mantle. These geochemical constraints would favour a contribution of comets mainly occurring after the last stages of Earth’s formation.

Here, we evaluate whether dynamical simulations satisfy these constraints in the context of an Early Instability model. We perform dynamical simulations of the solar system, calculate the probability of collision between comets and Earth analogs component embryos through time and estimate the total cometary mass accreted in Earth analogs as a function of time.

While our results are in excellent agreement with geochemical constraints, we also demonstrate that the contribution of comets on Earth might have been delayed with respect to the timing of the instability, due to a stochastic component of the bombardment. More importantly, we show that it is possible that enough cometary mass has been brought to Earth after it had finished forming so that the xenon constraint is not necessarily in conflict with an Early Instability scenario.

However, it appears very likely that a few comets were delivered to Earth early in its accretion history, thus contributing to the mantle’s budget. Finally, we compare the delivery of cometary material on Earth to Venus and Mars. These results emphasize the stochastic nature of the cometary bombardment in the inner solar system.

Sarah Joiret, Sean N. Raymond, Guillaume Avice, Matthew S. Clement, Rogerio Deienno, David Nesvorný

Comments: 26 pages, 12 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2309.03954 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2309.03954v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Journal reference: Icarus, 406, 115754 (2023)
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Submission history
From: Sarah Joiret
[v1] Thu, 7 Sep 2023 18:02:30 UTC (9,175 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) 🖖🏻