Using a newly developed model, the Carnegie and UCLA researchers were able to demonstrate that early in Earth’s existence, interactions between the magma ocean and a molecular hydrogen proto-atmosphere could have given rise to some of Earth’s signature features, such as its abundance of water and its overall oxidized state. The researchers used mathematical modeling to explore the exchange of materials between molecular hydrogen atmospheres and magma oceans by looking at 25 different compounds and 18 different types of reactions — complex enough to yield valuable data about Earth’s possible formative history, but simple enough to interpret fully.
Interactions between the magma ocean and the atmosphere in their simulated baby Earth resulted in the movement of large masses of hydrogen into the metallic core, the oxidation of the mantle, and the production of large quantities of water. Even if all of the rocky material that collided to form the growing planet was completely dry, these interactions between the molecular hydrogen atmosphere and the magma ocean would generate copious amounts of water, the researchers revealed. Other water sources are possible, they say, but not necessary to explain Earth’s current state. “This is just one possible explanation for our planet’s evolution, but one that would establish an important link between Earth’s formation history and the most common exoplanets that have been discovered orbiting distant stars, which are called Super-Earths and sub-Neptunes,” Shahar concluded.
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