Stochastic Late Accretion to Earth, the Moon, and Mars

Science  10 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6010, pp. 1527-1530
DOI: 10.1126/science.1196874

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Core formation should have stripped the terrestrial, lunar, and martian mantles of highly siderophile elements (HSEs). Instead, each world has disparate, yet elevated HSE abundances. Late accretion may offer a solution, provided that ≥0.5% Earth masses of broadly chondritic planetesimals reach Earth’s mantle and that ~10 and ~1200 times less mass goes to Mars and the Moon, respectively. We show that leftover planetesimal populations dominated by massive projectiles can explain these additions, with our inferred size distribution matching those derived from the inner asteroid belt, ancient martian impact basins, and planetary accretion models. The largest late terrestrial impactors, at 2500 to 3000 kilometers in diameter, potentially modified Earth’s obliquity by ~10°, whereas those for the Moon, at ~250 to 300 kilometers, may have delivered water to its mantle.

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