It is possible that the Earth lost up to 60% of its atmosphere in a collision that led to the formation of the Moon more than four billion years ago, scientists say.
The research, led by Durham University, is based on 300 computer simulations that analyze the consequences of the impact of collisions on rocky planets with thin atmospheres.
The team says the findings could be used by astronomers trying to find out more about the moon, which was thought to have formed from a collision between a rock the size of Mars and Earth.
Scenarios show losses up to 60%
“The puzzle about how the Moon formed and the other consequences of a huge collision with the early Earth is something that scientists are working hard to figure out,” said Dr. Jacob Kegerreis, lead author of the research.
“We’ve created hundreds of different scenarios for many colliding planets, showing the impact and various effects on a planet’s atmosphere, depending on a number of factors, such as the angle, impact speed or size of the planets.”
“While these computer simulations do not tell us directly how the Moon appeared, the effects on the Earth’s atmosphere could be used to narrow down the different ways in which it could have formed and could lead us closer to understanding. the origin of the nearest heavenly neighbor ”.
As part of the study, researchers have the analysist the ways in which a planet’s atmosphere could be changed by objects of different sizes and masses that impact at different angles and speeds.
The simulations showed that the Earth could have lost somewhere between 10% -60% of its atmosphere in the collision that led to the Moon.
“This major suite of planetary simulations illustrates the role of an impact on the evolution of Earth-like exoplanets,” said co-author Dr. Luis Teodoro of the University of Glasgow School of Physics and Astronomy.
The researchers say the findings also provide a new way to help estimate atmospheric losses from other rocky planets that were involved in the collision.