New solar system formation models indicate that Jupiter's foray robbed Mars of mass

Jun 05, 2011
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Kevin Walsh of Southwest Research Institute is using complex modeling techniques to better understand the formation of our solar system. The "Grand Tack Scenario" demonstrates that the gas giant Jupiter may have briefly migrated into the inner solar system and influenced the formation of Mars (right), stripping away materials that resulted in its relatively small size in comparison to Venus (left) and the Earth. Image credit: NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- Planetary scientists have long wondered why Mars is only about half the size and one-tenth the mass of Earth. As next-door neighbors in the inner solar system, probably formed about the same time, why isn't Mars more like Earth and Venus in size and mass? A paper published in the journal Nature this week provides the first cohesive explanation and, by doing so, reveals an unexpected twist in the early lives of Jupiter and Saturn as well.

Dr. Kevin Walsh, a research scientist at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), led an international team performing simulations of the early , demonstrating how an infant Jupiter may have migrated to within 1.5 astronomical units (AU, the distance from the Sun to the Earth) of the Sun, stripping a lot of material from the region and essentially starving Mars of formation materials.

"If Jupiter had moved inwards from its birthplace down to 1.5 AU from the Sun, and then turned around when formed as other models suggest, eventually migrating outwards towards its current location, it would have truncated the distribution of solids in the at about 1 AU and explained the small mass of Mars," says Walsh. "The problem was whether the inward and outward migration of Jupiter through the 2 to 4 AU region could be compatible with the existence of the asteroid belt today, in this same region. So, we started to do a huge number of simulations.

"The result was fantastic," says Walsh. "Our simulations not only showed that the migration of Jupiter was consistent with the existence of the asteroid belt, but also explained properties of the belt never understood before."

The asteroid belt is populated with two very different types of rubble, very dry bodies as well as water-rich orbs similar to comets. Walsh and collaborators showed that the passage of Jupiter depleted and then re-populated the region with inner-belt bodies originating between 1 and 3 AU as well as outer-belt bodies originating between and beyond the giant planets, producing the significant compositional differences existing today across the belt.

The collaborators call their simulation the "Grand Tack Scenario," from the abrupt change in the motion of at 1.5 AU, like that of a sailboat tacking around a buoy. The migration of the gas giants is also supported by observations of many extra-solar planets found in widely varying ranges from their parent stars, implying migrations of planets elsewhere in universe.

Explore further: Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

More information: "A Low Mass for Mars from Jupiter's Early Gas-Driven Migration," Nature, June 5, 2011.

Related Stories

The Edges of the Solar System

May 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The solar system does not end abruptly past the planets. Beyond the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet (it orbits the sun at a distance of 30 AU, where one AU is the average distance of ...

Rocky Finding -- Evidence of Extrasolar Asteroid Belt

Jan 06, 2007

Providing the best evidence yet for an asteroid belt beyond the solar system, new measurements pinpoint the location of such a disk of warm dust surrounding the star Zeta Leporis. As the January 6, 2007 issue of Science Ne ...

Dawn moves closer to the asteroid belt

Sep 12, 2007

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been positioned at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 17B atop a Delta II rocket for its launch from Florida later this month.

Recommended for you

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

20 minutes ago

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

4 hours ago

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tkjtkj
1 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2011
The physorg email notice re: this article says that jupiter ".. robbed mars of mass"

Now we see: " ..starving mars of formation material.."

Hardly the same thing!
Wake up, PhysOrg!!

omatumr
2 / 5 (8) Jun 05, 2011
Reasons for different compositions of planets were proposed ~3-4 decades ago [1-5] and confirmed by measurements [e.g., 6].

1. "Elemental and isotopic inhomogeneities in noble gases:
The case for local synthesis of the chemical elements",
Transactions Missouri Academy Sciences 9, 104-122 (1975)

2. "Strange xenon, extinct super-heavy elements, and
the solar neutrino puzzle", Science 195, 208-209 (1977)

3 "Isotopes of tellurium, xenon and krypton in the
Allende meteorite retain record of nucleosynthesis",
Nature 277, 615-620 (1979)

4. "Noble gas anomalies and synthesis of the chemical
elements", Meteoritics 15, 117-138 (1980)

www.omatumr.com/a...lies.pdf

5. "Heterogeneity of isotopic and elemental compositions in meteorites: Evidence of local synthesis of the elements ", Geokhimiya (12) 1776-1801 (1981)

6. "Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion",
Meteoritics Planetary Science 33, A97, 5011 (1998)

With kind regards,
Oliver Manuel
SemiNerd
1 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2011
The physorg email notice re: this article says that jupiter ".. robbed mars of mass"

Now we see: " ..starving mars of formation material.."
Its entirely unclear to me that there is any difference. If Jupiter took the material that Mars was made out of, thus explaining the low mass of Mars vs the expected mass, either expression is saying the same identical thing.

Hardly the same thing!
Wake up, PhysOrg!!


chaman
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
A different explanation is reported in ScienceDaily (May 30, 2011) whereby "Mars developed in as little as two to four million years after the birth of the solar system, far more quickly than Earth, according to a new study published in the May 26 issue of the journal Nature. The red planet's rapid formation helps explain why it is so small, say the study's co-authors [...]." http://www.scienc...705.htm.

joebecker
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
You guys know any good Uranus jokes?

More news stories

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...