Partial core vaporization during Giant Impacts inferred from the entropy and the critical point of iron

1Zhi Li,1,2Razvan Caracas,1François Soubiran
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 547, 116463 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116463]
1CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon UMR 5276, Centre Blaise Pascal, 46 allée d’Italie, 69364 Lyon, France
2The Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Copyright Elsevier

Giant impacts are disruptive events occurring in the early stages of planetary evolution. They may result in the formation of a protolunar disk or of a synestia. A central planet and one or several moons condense upon cooling bearing the chemical signature of the silicate mantles of the initial bodies; the iron cores may partly vaporize, fragment and/or merge. Here we determine from ab initio simulations the critical point of iron in the temperature range of 9000-9350 K, and the density range of 1.85-2.40 g/cm3, corresponding to a pressure range of 4-7 kbars. This implies that the iron core of the proto-Earth may become supercritical after giant impacts and during the condensation and cooling of the protolunar disk. We show that the iron core of Theia partially vaporized during the Giant Impact. Part of this vapor may have remained in the disk, to eventually participate in the Moon’s small core. Similarly, during the late veneer a large fraction of the planetesimals have their cores undergoing partial vaporization. This would help mixing the highly siderophile elements into magma ponds or oceans.

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