Core segregation during pebble accretion

Peter Olson, Zachary Sharp, Susmita Garai

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 587, 1 June 2022, 117537



• Pebble accretion builds terrestrial protoplanets in a few million years.
• Core segregation is synchronized to the pebble accretion rate.
• Pebble accretion produces a global magma ocean and high temperature core segregation.”

“We present a model for terrestrial planet formation by pebble accretion, focusing on core segregation in the early Earth. Our results indicate that if the proto-Earth and the Moon-forming impactor Theia grew by pebble accretion, core-forming metals in each body segregated from mantle-forming silicates within the first few million years of solar system history, while both were enveloped in atmospheres composed of nebular gas. Thermal blanketing by their energy-absorbing atmospheres, heat produced by radioactive decay of aluminum-26, and gravitational energy released by metal segregation resulted in very high internal temperatures, such that the mantle and core of both bodies experienced partial or total melting during accretion. We calculate pressure-temperature conditions where the core-forming metals are predicted to have segregated from magma ocean silicates under pebble accretion. Two-body combinations of these conditions, representing the merger of proto-Earth and Theia, yield average segregation pressures and temperatures that are similar to core segregation conditions previously inferred for impact-driven Earth accretion constrained by metal-silicate partitioning of siderophile elements.”