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Today the planets of the solar system revolve in their orbits peacefully, normally oblivious to the impact of large asteroids and comets, which only collide with a low frequency, at least on a human scale. But in the beginning, the solar system was a very violent place, where the planets primordial were subjected to a merciless bombardment and clashed among themselves countless times. Among many other things, it is believed that this type of impact was the one that created the Moon or slammed to the axis of rotation of Venus.

therefore, to understand what happens when the planets impact each other is key to understanding not only the structure of our solar system and other planetary systems far away, but also the nature of planets and exoplanets, worlds orbiting distant stars.

For these reasons, a team of researchers from the universities of Durham and Glasgow in the Uk, carried out simulations with the supercomputer COSMA to reveal what happened during this type of collision, paying special attention to what happens to the atmospheres. Their simulations, recently published in “The Astrophysical Journal”, shows what occurs during the collision of planets of size comparable to that of the Earth, changing speeds, trajectories, and other circumstances.

After performing 100 simulations have found that the more collisions indirect, that is to say, “glancing”, causing a loss of atmosphere very much less than the direct impacts. On the other hand, the results also show that collisions at higher speeds are able to raze full both atmospheres as the mantle , the portion of planets located under the bark.

The collision that created the Moon

what is Perhaps most interesting is that the data indicate that the impact that created the Moon, a collision occurred between the early Earth and an object the size of Mars, known as Theia, just ended up with between 10 and 50% of our planet’s atmosphere . Therefore, their data indicate that a shock more direct could have had long-term consequences very detrimental to the development of life.

“we Know that the collisions of the planets can have a huge effect on the atmosphere of the planets,” he said in a press release Jacob Kegerreis, co-author of the study and researcher at the University of Durham. “But this has been the first time that we are able to consider wide variations of these violent phenomena with detail”.

Thanks to that, and have come up with a way to predict the erosion of the atmosphere after this type of crash, which is useful for “understanding both the history of the Earth, as a habitable planet, as the evolution of exoplanets around other stars”, in the words of Kegerreis.

After you have achieved these results, researchers are planning to make hundreds of simulations to check the effects of the masses and the compositions of the planets.

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