WATCH: Supercomputer generates 3D videos that show how Earth may have lost half of its atmosphere to create the Moon
- The COSMA supercomputer was used to create 3D simulations of what would happen to a planet’s atmosphere due to giant impacts.
- Scientists at Durham University created 3D videos of what it would look like if an object were to come hurtling towards an Earth-like planet in the early universe.
- Using the results of the study, scientists estimate that the Earth got lucky with its impact that created the Moon.
AdvertisementA supercomputer can do many things, including creating 3D simulations of what it may look like when Earth faces a giant impact. Scientists used the COSMA supercomputer to show exactly what would happen to an Earth-like planet in the early universe if a giant object were to smash into its atmosphere.
Planets aren’t created overnight. It takes billions of years of evolution to get the rocks and gas to come together to create what can be called a planetary body. If in the middle of that formation, something smashes into the planet before its whole — it can have wide-ranging consequences, like atmospheric loss.
The 3D videos created by scientists at Durham University and the University of Glasgow propose two different scenarios. One, where the impact is head-on and another, with a grazing impact.
Source: Durham University
Grazing impacts, like the one that’s supposed to be the Moon’s origin story, lead to much less atmospheric loss as compared to a head-on collision, according to the study published in Astrophysical Journal.
Source: Durham University
A head-on collision is more dangerous since the impact can penetrate through to the mantle — the layer that sits just above the planet’s crust.
Using the results of this study, the study estimates that Earth got lucky with its collision that created the Moon. The impact only managed to wipe out between 10% to 50% of its atmosphere.
"In spite of the remarkably diverse consequences that can come from different impact angles and speeds, we've found a simple way to predict how much atmosphere would be lost,” said the lead author of the study, Jacob Kegerries.
Going forward, the scientists will continue to carry out more varied simulations to test the effect varying masses and compositions have on the results.
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