Building the Terrestrial Planets: Constrained Accretion in the Inner Solar System (Icarus, 2009)

VPL Authors

Full Citation:
Raymond, S. N., O’Brien, D. P., Morbidelli, A., & Kaib, N. A. (2009). Building the terrestrial planets: Constrained accretion in the inner Solar System. Icarus, 203(2), 644–662.

To date, no accretion model has succeeded in reproducing all observed constraints in the inner Solar System. These constraints include: (1) the orbits, in particular the small eccentricities, and (2) the masses of the terrestrial planets – Mars’ relatively small mass in particular has not been adequately reproduced in previous simulations; (3) the formation timescales of Earth and Mars, as interpreted from Hf/W isotopes; (4) the bulk structure of the asteroid belt, in particular the lack of an imprint of planetary embryo-sized objects; and (5) Earth’s relatively large water content, assuming that it was delivered in the form of water-rich primitive asteroidal material. Here we present results of 40 high-resolution (N = 1000–2000) dynamical simulations of late-stage planetary accretion with the goal of reproducing these constraints, although neglecting the planet Mercury. We assume that Jupiter and Saturn are fully-formed at the start of each simulation, and test orbital configurations that are both consistent with and contrary to the “Nice model”. We find that a configuration with Jupiter and Saturn on circular orbits forms low-eccentricity terrestrial planets and a water-rich Earth on the correct timescale, but Mars’ mass is too large by a factor of 5–10 and embryos are often stranded in the asteroid belt. A configuration with Jupiter and Saturn in their current locations but with slightly higher initial eccentricities (e = 0.07–0.1) produces a small Mars, an embryo-free asteroid belt, and a reasonable Earth analog but rarely allows water delivery to Earth. None of the configurations we tested reproduced all the observed constraints. Our simulations leave us with a problem: we can reasonably satisfy the observed constraints (except for Earth’s water) with a configuration of Jupiter and Saturn that is at best marginally consistent with models of the outer Solar System, as it does not allow for any outer planet migration after a few Myr. Alternately, giant planet configurations which are consistent with the Nice model fail to reproduce Mars’ small size.


VPL Research Tasks:
Task C: The Habitable Planet