Mars in space.
When our solar system formed, Mars formed earlier than Earth, and its composition gives clues about early steps in planet formation. A new UC Davis study overturns previous ideas about how rocky planets form. (NASA image)

Martian Meteorite Upsets Planet Formation Theory

A new study of an old meteorite contradicts current thinking about how rocky planets like the Earth and Mars acquire volatile elements such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and noble gases as they form. The work was published June 16 in Science.

A basic assumption about planet formation is that planets first collect these volatiles from the nebula around a young star, said Sandrine Péron, a postdoctoral scholar working with Professor Sujoy Mukhopadhyay in the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Because the planet is a ball of molten rock at this point, these elements initially dissolve into the magma ocean and then degas back into the atmosphere. Later on, chondritic meteorites crashing into the young planet deliver more volatile materials.

“We can reconstruct the history of volatile delivery in the first few million years of the solar system.” —  Sandrine Péron

Read the rest of this article at UC Davis News.

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