On the origin and composition of Theia: Constraints from new models of the Giant Impact

On the origin and composition of Theia: Constraints from new models of the Giant Impact

Matthias M.M. Meier, Andreas Reufer, Rainer Wieler

Icarus 242:316-328 (2014)


LINK (abstract)

Knowing the isotopic composition of Theia, the proto-planet which collided with the Earth in the Giant Impact that formed the Moon, could provide interesting insights on the state of homogenization of the inner solar system at the late stages of terrestrial planet formation. We use the known isotopic and modeled chemical compositions of the bulk silicate mantles of Earth and Moon and combine them with different Giant Impact models, to calculate the possible ranges of isotopic composition of Theia in O, Si, Ti, Cr, Zr and W in each model. We compare these ranges to the isotopic composition of carbonaceous chondrites, Mars, and other solar system materials. In the absence of post-impact isotopic re-equilibration, the recently proposed high angular momentum models of the Giant Impact (“impact-fission”, Cuk & Stewart, 2012; and “merger”, Canup, 2012) allow – by a narrow margin – for a Theia similar to CI-chondrites, and Mars. The “hit-and-run” model (Reufer et al., 2012) allows for a Theia similar to enstatite-chondrites and other Earth-like materials. If the Earth and Moon inherited their different mantle FeO contents from the bulk mantles of the proto-Earth and Theia, the high angular momentum models cannot explain the observed difference. However, both the hit-and-run as well as the classical or “canonical” Giant Impact model naturally explain this difference as the consequence of a simple mixture of two mantles with different FeO. Therefore, the simplest way to reconcile the isotopic similarity, and FeO dissimilarity, of Earth and Moon is a Theia with an Earth-like isotopic composition and a higher (~20%) mantle FeO content.