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Scientists present a new theory that may explain how the Earth was formed

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They designed models where thousands of planetesimals collided with each other in the early solar system, with the purpose of knowing the chemical composition of our planet.

An international group of scientists revealed a new hypothesis that explains the possible formation of the Earth, after analyzing the chemical compositions of various terrestrial elements, through laboratory experiments and computer simulations, reported the Zurich Polytechnic School (ETH, for its acronym in German).

According to Paolo Sossi, researcher at ETH and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, there is a “predominant theory in astrophysics and cosmochemistry” that indicates ” that the Earth formed from chondritic asteroids”, which “are relatively small and simple blocks of rock and metal that formed in the early stages of the solar system”.

However, the only drawback with this assumption “is that no mixture of these chondrites can explain the exact composition of the Earth“, because “it is much poorer in elements lighter and more volatile like hydrogen and helium than expected. Likewise, different hypotheses have been proposed to explain this condition, highlighting the one that specifies that the collisions of objects from space gave rise to the Earth. These caused large amounts of heat that evaporated the light elements until having the current structure of our planet.

Sossi thinks that these theories become improbable, after measuring the isotopic composition of different elements present on Earth, considering that “all isotopes of a chemical element have the same number of protons, although different numbers of neutrons”. However, there are “isotopes with fewer neutrons”, which “are lighter and therefore should be able to escape more easily”.

“If the theory of vaporization by If the heating were correct, today we would find fewer of these light isotopes on Earth than in the original chondrites”, detailed the scientist, who added that this “is precisely what isotope measurements do not show”. Faced with this situation, the researchers proposed to study another possibility to demonstrate that our planet was not formed from chondrites, but from planetesimals, which in Sossi’s words, are solid bodies that arise during the accumulation of “material through its gavitational attraction”.

“Like chondrites, planetesimals also n are small bodies of rock and metal”, the researcher mentioned, describing that the only “difference” is that these “have been heated enough to differentiate into a metallic nucleus and a rocky mantle”. “Furthermore, planetesimals that formed in different areas around the young Sun, or at different times, can have very different chemical compositions,” he said.

Using simulations to know exactly the composition of the Land

To discover these chemical compositions, the researchers ran a series of simulations where thousands of planetesimals collided with each other in the early solar system. In the same way, other models were designed that recreated four other rocky planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The team identified that a diverse mixture of planetesimals with different chemical compositions could reproduce the composition that planet Earth currently has.

“Now we not only have a mechanism that better explains the formation of the Earth, but we also have a reference to explain the formation of the other rocky planets,” says Sossi, adding that this “mechanism could be used” to predict “how the composition of Mercury differs from that of the other rocky planets.” , as well as to know how “the rocky exoplanets of other stars are composed”.

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