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Adv Space Res. 1992;12(4):5-12.

Cometary origin of carbon and water on the terrestrial planets.

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Department of Physics & Astronomy, The University of Toledo, OH 43606, USA.


An early high-temperature phase of the protosolar accretion disk is implied by at least three different telltales in chondrites and confirmed by peculiarities in the dust grains of comet Halley. The existence this high-temperature phase implies a large accretion rate hence a massive early disk. This clarifies the origin of the Kuiper Belt and of the Oort cloud, those two cometary populations of different symmetry that subsist today. Later, when the dust sedimented and was removed from the thermal equilibrium with the gas phase, a somewhat lower temperature of the disk explains the future planets' densities as well as the location beyond 2.6 AU of the carbonaceous chondrite chemistry. This lower temperature remains however large enough to require an exogenous origin for all carbon and all water now present in the Earth. The later orbital diffusion of planetesimals, which is required by protoplanelary growth, is needed to explain the origin of the terrestrial biosphere (atmosphere, oceans, carbonates and organic compounds) by a veneer mostly made of comets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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