Onset of giant planet migration before 4480 million years ago


Steve Mojzsis

From University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

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Steve Mojzsis

Soon after their formation, the terrestrial planets experienced intense impact bombardment by comets, left-over planetesimals from primary accretion, and asteroids. This temporal interval in solar system evolution, termed late accretion, thermally and chemically modified solid planetary surfaces and may have impeded life’s emergence on the Hadean (pre-3850 Ma) Earth. The sources and tempo of bombardment, however, remain obscure. Here, we present a timeline that relates variably retentive radiometric ages documented from asteroidal meteorites to new dynamical models that invoke an early episode of planetesimal-driven giant planet migration after the dispersal of the protoplanetary disk. Reconciliation of geochronological data with dynamical models shows that such giant planet migration should lead to an intense ~30 Myr influx of comets to the entire solar system manifested in radiometric age data. The absence of whole-sale crustal reset ages after ~4450 Ma for the most resilient chronometers from Earth, Moon, Mars, Vesta and various meteorite parent bodies confines the onset of giant planet migration to ca. 4480 Ma. Waning impacts continue to strike the inner planets through a protracted monotonic decline in impactor flux, in agreement with predictions from crater chronology. New global 3-D thermal analytical bombardment models derived from our revised impact mass-production functions show also that persistent niches for prebiotic chemistry leading to the emergence of life on the early Hadean Earth could endure late accretion since at least about 4400 million years ago.

Published Aug. 20, 2019 10:08 AM - Last modified Sep. 9, 2019 8:01 AM