The Remnants of an Ancient Planet May Lay Buried Close to Earth’s Core

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Scientists believe pieces of an ancient Mars-sized planet known as Theia may be buried deep in Earth’s mantle close to its core, following an ancient collision between the two worlds that gave rise to the formation of the moon.

The planets of our solar system bear countless scars that testify to a history of unimaginable cosmic violence. Mercury’s cratered surface is formed from countless kilometers of asteroid impacts, while Uranus rotates at an angle of 97 degrees to the Sun’s orbital plane, the result of a collision with an unknown asteroid long ago. Earth has also been subjected to countless acts of cosmic aggression, the greatest of which is thought to have occurred some 4.5 billion years ago, when our emerging planet was struck by an ancient world known simply as Theia.

Previous research has shown that the collision could have occurred with enough force to turn both the impactor and much of our planet’s outer layers into a mass of flowing molten debris. Much of this matter was thrown into orbit by the momentum of the impact, but was pulled back to our shattered planet shortly afterwards. However, much of the material remained in orbit, where it would eventually coalesce into the moon we observe today.

A new set of computer simulations modeling the impact support the idea that two continent-sized masses of material buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface may in fact be remnants of ancient Theia. The blobs – located beneath what is now Africa and the Pacific Ocean – were first discovered in the 1980s and were dubbed large low-velocity provinces (LLVPs) due to the fact that seismic waves were observed to travel more slowly as they passed through the areas . strange mass.

This in turn suggested that these cavities may have a different composition and higher density than the surrounding matter that makes up most of Earth’s mantle, the section between our planet’s upper core and the lower crust.

According to the findings of the new study, led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology, and published in the journal Nature, Theia may have hit Earth with enough force to completely melt the upper part of the Earth’s mantle, while the lower part of the Earth’s mantle remained. half of our planet is largely stuck. During this chaotic process, Earth could have acquired about 10 percent of Theia’s mass, which would explain the enormous size of the strange deposits discovered in Earth’s mantle today.

The relative density of the part-molten, part-solid Theia matter may have caused this trapped material to rapidly descend through most of our damaged planet until it reached the boundary separating Earth’s core from the mass of the mantle above. Over time, more of Theia’s matter would accumulate and settle into two massive thermochemical deposits that would evolve into the form of what geologists see today with the LLVPs.

While the new computer simulations are far from convincing, they do strengthen the theory that the LLVPs are indeed pieces of an ancient world buried deep in the Earth’s mantle. Next, the team hopes to investigate how the introduction of this alien material could have changed Earth’s evolutionary journey and helped form Earth’s first continents. The scientists also hope to test their theory by comparing their theory to samples of the moon’s mantle, which is thought to be partly formed from Theia.

Anthony is a freelance contributor to science and video game news for IGN. He has more than eight years of experience covering groundbreaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your nonsense. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

Image credits: Hernán Cañellas, CalTech

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