Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

July 31, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Earth from space

A team of researchers at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado has created a computer simulation that depicts the first 500 million years of Earth's existence, taking into account collisions with asteroids and comets. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers describe how they built their simulation using crater data from the moon and other planets, and what it likely meant for early Earth.

The general consensus among is that Earth was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago—unfortunately, because our planet underwent such upheaval during the next half billion years or so, little has survived that can be used as evidence to offer a picture of what the planet looked like and what the impact of events during that time mean for the world we see today.

To gain a better understanding of the time after the Earth was formed, known as the Hadean Eon, the researchers looked to other bodies in our solar system—the moon in particular. The cratered face of our solitary natural satellite suggests a violent past, which offers hints of what our own planet endured. The researchers also noted the amounts of minerals that attach to such elements as gold present in the Earth's crust, material believed to have come from other celestial bodies.

After putting all the data into their model, the simulation showed that Earth, in addition to being struck by many small to medium sized asteroids, was also likely struck by several really big ones, big enough to melt the entire surface of the planet—which would explain the lack of rocks from that time surviving to modern times. This suggests that Earth's surface was melted and buried over and over again, though there were also likely long respites in-between.

The simulations also indicate that if life existed during the Hadean Eon, it would have had to have been deep in the Earth's crust and resistant to heat. Also any water on the surface near big impacts would have been vaporized and sent into the atmosphere, where it would have stayed for a period before eventually falling back to the surface.

Explore further: Ancient minerals: Which gave rise to life?

More information: Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature.2014.15644

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7 comments

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foolspoo
3 / 5 (4) Jul 31, 2014
Many would think this to be common knowledge. Then the majority would believe this to be heresy as they condemn for not worshiping their chosen idol. Sad sad sad
excellentjim
2.8 / 5 (4) Jul 31, 2014
But . . . but I learned this in Grade School - in 1965! What a waste of Research Money.
DeliriousNeuron
1.5 / 5 (11) Jul 31, 2014
I can also simulate that the earth was bombarded by giant turds too.
Computer simulations are a waste of time.
Solon
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 31, 2014
I can also simulate that the earth was subject to many intense electrical discharges, which is the more likely method. The Moon too. Oh, and Mars also.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.6 / 5 (10) Jul 31, 2014
Guys, this was effectively a statistical analysis of what proportion of sizes of asteroids and comets we were hit by.
The fact the the Earth surface was liquified so many times is important because there is some evidence that life may have begun developing by the late Hadean Eon. If that's true its astonishing circumstances and very counter intuitive of a place for life.
alfie_null
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 01, 2014
I can also simulate that the earth was subject to many intense electrical discharges, which is the more likely method. The Moon too. Oh, and Mars also.

You should know the drill. Write something up. Make it good enough to get it published. Be prepared to rebut a whole lot of really smart people, who will poke holes in your ideas.

If you expect traction from announcing your ideas here, you're living in a fantasy world.
DeliriousNeuron
1 / 5 (4) Aug 02, 2014
There isn't much to simulate before the EU Theory makes more sense. All u need to do is open your eyes and become an observer. Jeez you guys.
Gravity does have its place....

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