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SPACE NASA funded Simulations show how cataclysmic collisions delivered precious metals to the early Earth

Published 06 DEC 2017 11:23AM

Words by AC Speed




Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute, or SwRI, and University of Maryland have created high-resolution impact simulations that show large portions of a planetesimal core could penetrate deep into the Earth's core, or ricochet back into outer space to help form our early home planet and contribute to delivering the variety of precious metals we find on our planet today.

The findings were published in a paper titled, ‘Heterogeneous delivery of silicate and metal to the Earth by large planetesimals’ on Nature Geoscience with contributions from S. Marchi, R. M. Canup and R. J. Walker published on 04 December 2017.

Watch the simulation Credit: Southwest Research Institute

“These results have far-reaching implications for Moon-forming theories and beyond...Interestingly, our findings elucidate the role of large collisions in delivering
precious metals like gold and platinum found here on Earth.” said Marchi


These findings could support the theories of how Planets and Moons are formed, which has been debated by scientists for many years.

“After the Moon’s formation, Earth experienced a protracted bombardment by leftover planetesimals”


The team determined the total amount of material delivered to Earth may have been 2-5 times greater than previously thought, and the impacts altered Earth in a profound way while depositing familiar elements like gold.

The study was funded by a NASA Exobiology grant, along with support from NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, or SSERV.

Resource: doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0022-3

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