A unified model for hydrogen in the Earth and Moon: No one expects the Theia contribution

1Steven J.Desch,2Katharine L.Robinson
Geochemistry (Chemie der Erde) (In Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemer.2019.125546]
1School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe AZ 85287, United States
2Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Blvd., Houston TX 77058, United States
Copyright Elsevier

The Moon is thought to have formed after a planetary embryo, known as Theia, collided with the proto-Earth 4.5 billion years ago. This so-called Giant Impact was the last major event during Earth’s accretion, and its effects on the composition of the Earth and the newly forming Moon would be measureable today. Recent work on lunar samples has revealed that the Moon’s water was not lost as a result of this giant impact. Instead, the Moon appears to contain multiple hydrogen reservoirs with diverse deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) ratios. For the first time, we incorporate hydrogen isotopic measurements of lunar samples to help constrain the composition of Theia. We show that the Moon incorporated very low-D/H (δD ≈ -750‰) materials that only could have derived from solar nebula H2 ingassed into the magma ocean of a large (∼0.4 ME) planetary embryo that was largely devoid of chondritic water. We infer Theia was a very large body comparable in size to the proto-Earth, and was composed almost entirely of enstatite chondrite-like material. These conclusions limit the type of impact to a “merger” model of similarly-sized bodies, or possibly a “hit-and-run” model, and they rule out models that mix isotopes too effectively.


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