Monday, October 5, 2015

Did Venus Lose its Volatiles Through a Theia Like Impact?

Impact-driven planetary desiccation: The origin of the dry Venus




The fate of surface water on Venus is one of the most important outstanding problems in comparative planetology. Here a new concept is proposed to explain water removal on a steam-covered proto Venus, referred to as impact-driven planetary desiccation. Since a steam atmosphere is photochemically unstable, water vapor dissociates into hydrogen and oxygen. Then, hydrogen escapes easily into space through hydrodynamic escape driven by strong extreme ultraviolet radiation from the young Sun. The focus is on the intense impact bombardment during the terminal stage of planetary accretion as generators of a significant amount of reducing agent. The fine-grained ejecta remove the residual oxygen, the counter part of escaped hydrogen, via the oxidation of iron-bearing rocks in a hot atmosphere. Thus, hypervelocity impacts cause net desiccation of the planetary surface. I constructed a stochastic cratering model using a Monte Carlo approach to investigate the cumulative mass of nonoxidized, ejected rocks due to the intense impact bombardment. It is shown that a thick steam atmosphere with a mass equivalent to that of the terrestrial oceans would be removed. The cumulative mass of rocky ejecta released into the atmosphere reaches 1 wt% of the host planet, which is 10000 times of the current mass of the Earths atmosphere. These results strongly suggest that chemical reactions between such large amounts of ejecta and planetary atmospheres are among the key factors required to understand atmospheric mass and its composition, not only in the Solar System but also in extrasolar systems.

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