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Planets Like Earth May Have Had Muddy Origins


Scientists have long held the belief that planets – including Earth – were built from rocky asteroids, but new research challenges that view. 

The research by Phil Bland, Curtin University, and PSI Senior Scientist Bryan Travis suggests that many of the original planetary building blocks in our solar system may actually have started life, not as rocky asteroids, but as gigantic balls of warm mud. 

Travis used his Mars and Asteroids Global Hydrology Numerical Model (MAGHNUM) to carry out computer simulations, adapting MAGHNUM to be able to simulate movement of a distribution of rock grain sizes and flow of mud in carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. 

The results showed that many of the first asteroids, those that delivered water and organic material to the terrestrial planets, might have started out as giant convecting mud balls and not as consolidated rock. 

The findings could provide a new scientific approach for further research into the evolution of water and organic material in our solar system, and generate new approaches to how and where we continue our search for other habitable planets. 

These images show temperature maps as simulated by MAGHNUM as a result of mud convection, in a medium sized asteroid (above) and a large asteroid (below). Temperatures are shown in degrees Celsius. 

mud ball

Aug. 21, 2017
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