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: How did the Late Heavy Bombardment affect Earth's crust?

More information: Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature.2014.15644

Related Stories

How did the Late Heavy Bombardment affect Earth's crust?

February 24, 2014

Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have assessed the effects of impacts on the crust of the early Earth. The research could help determine whether or not evidence of such violent events in our planet's ...

Image: Messy peaks of Zucchius

July 21, 2014

Even to the naked eye, our Moon looks heavily cratered. The snippet of carved and pitted lunar surface shown in this image lies within a 66 km-wide crater known as Zucchius. From our perspective, Zucchius is located on the ...

Ancient minerals: Which gave rise to life?

November 25, 2013

Life originated as a result of natural processes that exploited early Earth's raw materials. Scientific models of life's origins almost always look to minerals for such essential tasks as the synthesis of life's molecular ...

Asteroid Vesta to reshape theories of planet formation

July 16, 2014

EPFL researchers have a better understanding of the asteroid Vesta and its internal structure, thanks to numerical simulations and data from the space mission Dawn. Their findings, published today in Nature, question contemporary ...

How Earth was watered

February 28, 2014

Early Earth's accidental deluge via water-carrying comets has long been a stumbling block for those interested in life on other planets.

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

Study suggests trees are crucial to the future of our cities

March 25, 2019

The shade of a single tree can provide welcome relief from the hot summer sun. But when that single tree is part of a small forest, it creates a profound cooling effect. According to a study published today in the Proceedings ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.
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.
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.
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....

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.