Whatever happened to ol’ planet Theia?
The Earth, as a full-on planet, has existed for about 4.543 billion years. Prior to that, it was just a big ball of free-floating gas and minerals in the infinite void, just like other planets. At some point, everything just sorta mushed together, and then the Earth as we know it happened. However, according to some new theories, there may have been an additional component in the Earth’s creation: an entirely separate planet.
A team of researchers from Arizona State University, led by geodynamics researcher Qian Yuan, have postulated that an entirely separate planet, known as Theia, impacted the Earth during its primordial phases, contributing large quantities of its mass to our planet’s creation, as well as the creation of our moon. Now, this isn’t a new theory; researchers have been thinking about Theia for years. The new wrinkle here, according to Yuan’s team, is that portions of Theia may still exist within the Earth’s core.
“You could say that these are the biggest and largest meteorites if they are mostly Theia’s mantle,” Yuan told Vice. “It’s very cool.”
Yuan’s team discovered massive, continent-sized masses around 1,000 miles beneath the Earth’s crust, thanks to help from geodynamic models and isotopic evidence. The researchers believe that these masses are “left-over Theia mantle materials.”
The scientific community has considered this possibility before, but the research from this team shows the first concentrated effort to actually prove it, and it’s a pretty convincing case.
“I think it’s completely viable until someone tells me it’s not,” Arizona State University professor and seismologist Edward Garnero said of Yuan’s research.
Yuan and his team presented a paper detailing their findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held earlier this month.