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J R Soc West Aust. 1996 Mar;79 Pt 1:59-65.

Origin of the terrestrial planets and the moon.

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Department of Nuclear Physics, Australian National University, Canberra.


Our ideas about the origin and evolution of the solar system have advanced significantly as a result of the past 25 years of space exploration. Metal-sulfide-silicate partitioning seems to have been present in the early dust components of the solar nebula, prior to chondrule formation. The inner solar nebula was depleted in volatile elements by early solar activity. The early formation of the gas giant, Jupiter, affected the subsequent development of inner solar system and is responsible for the existence of the asteroid belt, and the small size of Mars. The Earth and the other terrestrial planets accreted in a gas-free environment, mostly from volatile-depleted planetesimals which were already differentiated into metallic cores and silicate mantles. The origin of the Moon by a single massive impact with a body larger than Mars explains the angular momentum, orbital characteristics and unique nature of the Earth-Moon system. The density and chemical differences between the Earth and Moon are accounted for by deriving the Moon from the mantle of the impactor.

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