Dynamical Evolution of the Earth-Moon Progenitors – Whence Theia?

Billy Quarles, Jack J. Lissauer

Accepted for publication in Icarus
(Submitted on 27 Oct 2014)


We present integrations of a model Solar System with five terrestrial planets (beginning ~30-50 Myr after the formation of primitive Solar System bodies) in order to determine the preferred regions of parameter space leading to a giant impact that resulted in the formation of the Moon. Our results indicate which choices of semimajor axes and eccentricities for Theia (the proto-Moon) at this epoch can produce a late Giant Impact, assuming that Mercury, Venus, and Mars are near the current orbits. We find that the likely semimajor axis of Theia, at the epoch when our simulations begin, depends on the assumed mass ratio of Earth-Moon progenitors (8/1, 4/1, or 1/1). The low eccentricities of the terrestrial planets are most commonly produced when the progenitors have similar semimajor axes at the epoch when our integrations commence. Additionally, we show that mean motion resonances among the terrestrial planets and perturbations from the giant planets can affect the dynamical evolution of the system leading to a late Giant Impact.