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Journal Articles Icarus Year : 2013

Asteroidal impacts and the origin of terrestrial and lunar volatiles


Asteroids impacting the Earth partly volatilize, partly melt (O’Keefe, J.D., Ahrens, T.J. [1977]. Proc. Lunar Sci. Conf. 8, 3357–3374). While metal rapidly segregates out of the melt and sinks into the core, the vaporized material orbits the Earth and eventually rains back onto its surface. The content of the mantle in siderophile elements and their chondritic relative abundances hence is accounted for, not by the impactors themselves, as in the original late-veneer model (Chou, C.L. [1978]. Proc. Lunar Sci. Conf. 9, 219–230; Morgan, J.W. et al. [1981]. Tectonophysics 75, 47–67), but by the vapor resulting from impacts. The impactor’s non-siderophile volatiles, notably hydrogen, are added to the mantle and hydrosphere. The addition of late veneer may have lasted for 130 Ma after isolation of the Solar System and probably longer, i.e., well beyond the giant lunar impact. Constraints from the stable isotopes of oxygen and other elements suggest that, contrary to evidence from highly siderophile elements, ∼4% of CI chondrites accreted to the Earth. The amount of water added in this way during the waning stages of accretion, and now dissolved in the deep mantle or used to oxidize Fe in the mantle and the core, may correspond to 10–25 times the mass of the present-day ocean. The Moon is at least 100 times more depleted than the Earth in volatile elements with the exception of some isolated domains, such as the mantle source of 74220 pyroclastic glasses, which appear to contain significantly higher concentrations of water and other volatiles.

Dates and versions

hal-01761489 , version 1 (09-04-2018)



Francis Albarède, Chris Ballhaus, Janne Blichert-Toft, Cin-Ty Lee, Bernard Marty, et al.. Asteroidal impacts and the origin of terrestrial and lunar volatiles. Icarus, 2013, 222 (1), pp.44 - 52. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2012.10.026⟩. ⟨hal-01761489⟩
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