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Chemical Geology 169 2000. 6982 www.elsevier.


Accretion of Moon and Earth and the emergence of life

G. Arrhenius a, ) , A. Lepland a,b

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Uniersity of California, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093-0220, USA b Institute of Geology, Tallinn Technical Uniersity, EE-0001 Tallinn, Estonia Received 18 March 1999; accepted 9 June 2000

Abstract The discrepancy between the impact records on the Earth and Moon in the time period, 4.03.5 Ga calls for a re-evaluation of the cause and localization of the late lunar bombardment. As one possible explanation, we propose that the time coverage in the ancient rock record is sufficiently fragmentary, so that the effects of giant, sterilizing impacts throughout the inner solar system, caused by marauding asteroids, could have escaped detection in terrestrial and Martian records. Alternatively, the lunar impact record may reflect collisions of the receding Moon with a series of small, original satellites of the Earth and their debris in the time period about 4.03.5 Ga. The effects on Earth of such encounters could have been comparatively small. The location of these tellurian moonlets has been estimated to have been in the region around 40 Earth radii. Calculations presented here, indicate that this is the region that the Moon would traverse at 4.03.5 Ga, when the heavy and declining lunar bombardment took place. The ultimate time limit for the emergence of life on Earth is determined by the effects of planetary accretion existing models offer a variety of scenarios, ranging from low average surface temperature at slow accretion of the mantle, to complete melting of the planet followed by protracted cooling. The choice of accretion model affects the habitability of the planet by dictating the early evolution of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. Further exploration of the sedimentary record on Earth and Mars, and of the chemical composition of impact-generated ejecta on the Moon, may determine the choice between the different interpretations of the late lunar bombardment and cast additional light on the time and conditions for the emergence of life. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Moon; Early Earth; Emergence of life; Lunar bombardment; Earth satellites; Archean sediments; Chemofossils

1. Introduction The manifestations of a late heavy bombardment of the Moon were first observed by Papanastassiou and Wasserburg 1971. and Tera et al., 1974., its significance was further discussed by Wasserburg et
Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: G. Arrhenius., A. Lepland..

al., 1977.. It was later generally assumed that this protracted event must have affected the Earth violently and rendered our planet uninhabitable well past 3.8 Ga 1 Ga-10 9 yr., with major impacts extending to 3.45 Ga Fig. 1.. Such a bombardment is thought to have severely affected the possibilities for life to have emerged on Earth in the earliest Archean Stevenson, 1988; Sleep et al., 1989; Maher and Stevenson, 1988; Chyba, 1993; Oberbeck and Fogleman, 1989, 1990.. In contrast, the record from

0009-2541r00r$ - see front matter q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 0 0 9 - 2 5 4 1 0 0 . 0 0 3 3 3 - 8


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

Fig. 1. Radiometric ages of samples from the lunar highlands, illustrating the culmination of the late lunar bombardment around 3.83.9 Ga and tailing off toward 3.5 Ga after Dalrymple, 1991.. The dashed line shows the minimum age of the Isua metasediments and delineates the overlap of the decaying late lunar bombardment with the early sedimentation record of Earth. Compare interpretations in Fig. 3.

though the original sedimentary features bear an overprint of metamorphism and tectonism. The Isua and Akilia metasediments contain ubiquitous chemofossils with carbon isotopic composition suggestive of biochemically advanced microbial life forms Mojzsis et al., 1996.. Their presence indicates that the planet was not sterilized by impacts during the time periods of deposition of these sediments. This apparent lack of counterparts on Earth, to the late impact features on the Moon, together with new data obtained from the studies of the Martian meteorites, require a re-evaluation of the events in EarthMoon space in this critical time interval for the emergence of life. The 3.86 Ga age of the Akilia formation determined by Nutman et al. 1997, 2000., has been questioned by Kamber and Moorbath 1998. and Whitehouse et al. 1999., proposing an age of 3.65 Ga for this formation. Regardless of ultimate consensus on the age difference between the Isua and Akilia formations, this difference would, in the present context, be insignificant relative to the spread in time of the late impacts on the Moon, 4.03.45 Ga Fig. 1., essential for the comparison with the record on Earth.

2. The picket fence model and the sedimentary record We are considering two possible explanations for the apparent incongruence between the lunar and terrestrial records. If the bombardment was caused by invading translunar objects, it is likely to have been episodic. The effects could then have been overlooked in the discontinuous geologic record investigated from the early Archean. This concept is embodied in the picket fence model Fig. 3. proposed by Mojzsis and Zahnle Mojzsis et al., 1998.. Life could, in each such major occult impact event, have been extinguished, only to arise again in the intervening quiescent time intervals of a few ten or hundred million years. Or it could have found a niche for survival in the deep ocean or crust, and have spread again from there, between each pair of major assaults Sleep et al., 1989.. Sequences of metasedimentary cherts and banded iron formations in the Isua Supracrustal Belt ISB.,

the oldest known Isua and Akilia metasedimentary rocks from southern West Greenland, extending back in time beyond 3.75 Ga Fig. 2; Moorbath et al., 1973; Rosing et al., 1996; Nutman et al., 1997. show sequences of banded ironstones without any clearly identifiable disturbances that could have formed at asteroidal impacts. Such disturbances, in the form of surge deposits, are exemplified by the Ordovician Lockne impact structure in Sweden Sturkell, 1998. and consist of coarse-grained rock fragments, transported and sorted by the strong tidal flow generated by the impact. Crushing-, flow- and transport-effects at impacts of the size indicated by the lunar maria, and scaled up for Earths gravitation, would have been correspondingly violent. They would have left records that are likely to be distinguishable from the layer structure of the banded iron formation, even

G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982


Fig. 2. Time scale of events related to accretion of Moon and Earth and the emergence of life. The 3.8 Ga age line indicates the culmination of the late bombardment observed on the Moon.

referred to above, are exposed in outcrops and in a series of several-hundred meter-long drill cores Ap-

Fig. 3. Three generalized interpretations of the late lunar bombardment data shown in Fig. 2. The concurrent record on Earth is represented by the Isua sediments that have a minimum age of 3.75 Ga. Retrieved segments of these deposits do not bear evidence of contemporaneous bombardment of Earth at the scale observed on the Moon. This suggests, either that the corresponding timerock units on Earth are missing or have not been found cf. Fig. 4., or that the late lunar bombardment was restricted to lunar phase space. Zahnle and Mojzsis, unpubl., reproduced in Mojzsis et al., 1998..

pel, 1991.. The metasedimentary units are commonly intersected by intrusions of mafic rocks. Although individual 10100 m sections of coherent sequences, represent comparatively long accumulation periods, no certain evidence has so far been found for catastrophic surge deposits. Reliable stratigraphic interpretation is, however, hindered by the tectonic overprinting; the formation is isoclinally folded. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that some of the sequences represent repetitions of a single unit Rosing, 1998.. In the northeastern part of the ISB, the sequence of finely-laminated banded iron formation, contains strongly deformed 0.11 m thick layers, sandwiched between undeformed strata. These deformed packages probably mark tectonic shear zones that resulted from small-scale translations parallel to the bedding. Some of the thicker deformed packages Fig. 4., display grading of the component rock fragments, opening the possibility that they could be surge deposits formed by violent resuspension and sorting during resettling. If meteorite impact is assumed as a cause of such implied surges, an enhancement should be evident of the platinum group


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

Fig. 4. A rock sequence in the Isua banded iron formation which could possibly indicate a disturbance of the primary sedimentary structures by a seismic- or impact-related surge. The rock section, seen in the photograph to be layered between sections of finely laminated banded iron sediment, consists of rock fragments that become successively finer from left bottom?. to right top?.. Such grading may be interpreted as the result of violent suspension and sorting at settling of rock fragments, such as, after an earthquake or an impact. However, most of the Isua sediment sequences bear signs of tectonic deformation, therefore, indicating that the described structure could also be the result of shear. The possibility that this is an impact-related deposit can be tested by analyses of the concentration of PGE that are characteristic components of undifferentiated extraterrestrial materials.

element PGE. concentrations, in and above such beds, but has not yet been observed.

3. Lunar bombardment restricted to the Moon? As another possibility we suggest that the late lunar bombardment was not a solar system-wide

process, but was largely limited to the lunar orbit. This possibility may be evaluated against the background of several current theories for the origin of the Moon, that can all be taken to provide more or less compelling support for such a conjecture. One currently popular scenario for the formation of the Moon assumes that Earth, in a relatively advanced state of accretion, including or followed by core formation, would have collided with a hypothetical planet moving in an Earth-crossing orbit and with a mass larger than that of Mars Hartmann and Davis, 1975; Cameron and Ward, 1976; Wanke et al., 1984; Cameron and Benz, 1991; Cameron, 1985, 1997; Canup and Esposito, 1996; Ida et al., 1997. Ejecta from the impact would have been placed in prograde equatorial orbit around Earth and coalesced to form the Moon. In view of the fact that large impacts occur relatively late on the Moon without leaving an observed record on Earth, one may consider a scenario proposed by Canup and Esposito 1996.. They suggested that a massive proto-Moon coalesced from the inner part of the ejecta ring and receded from Earth due to tidal angular momentum transfer. The protoMoon later overtook and collided with a series of originally formed smaller moonlets. This scenario requires a lapse time of about 400 million years between the initial emplacement of the Moon and the late bombardment. The delay time, aside from the orbital distance from Earth of such swept up moonlets, would depend on the rate of recession of the proto-Moon from Earth, and thus, on tidal dissipation. Bodily tides are generally considered of minor importance in the present solid Earth, compared to the ocean, where dissipation is mainly restricted to shallow seas and regions around submarine ridges and seamounts Munk and Wunsch, 1998.. In the collisional theory for the origin of the Moon, considerable uncertainty is introduced for tidal dissipation and rate of recession, since the hydrosphere must have been totally evaporated, creating a thermal blanket perpetuating this state for a long time. On the other hand, extensive liquefaction of the outer layer of the Earth, creating a magma ocean, would have increased the dissipation factor. Other theories for the formation of the proto-Moon also offer possibilities for explaining late collision events occurring in lunar phase space. With regard to

G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982


formation and orbital evolution of the Moon, the extensively analyzed capture theory Gerstenkorn, 1955, 1969; Lyttleton, 1967; Singer, 1968, 1972; Alfven and Arrhenius, 1963, 1969; Urey and MacDonald, 1971; Kaula, 1971. deserves further consideration. The capture theory has, perhaps temporarily, become overshadowed by the collision theory. This invokes, as supporting evidence, material similarities between the Earths mantle and the Moon, and a purported low probability of capture. Perhaps subliminally, it also draws on the computationally and visually attractive drama of Worlds in Collision. At closer scrutiny, the two former arguments against capture, however, assume diminishing importance. The low density of the Moon is comparable not only to the silicate mantlecrust of the Earth but in general, to circumsolar bodies beyond Earth, such as Mars and the asteroids. The similarity of oxygen isotope ratios of Moon and Earth, compared to Martian meteorites, has been invoked as another material argument for the collision hypothesis. However, materials that isotopically are strikingly similar to those of the Moon and Earth are represented by certain types of meteorites Clayton and Mayeda, 1996. that could have served as a source for the Moon and have also been invoked as a likely source material for the Earth Herndon, 1996.. The collision cross-section of Earth is about six times smaller than that of a presumed dissipative Earth ring region, and the capture probability from a corresponding encounter orbit is amplified by many orders of magnitude by repeated passages. The improbability argument would seem to apply to the collision hypothesis more seriously than to capture, particularly when the efficient capture-dissipation mechanism proposed by Kaula and Harris 1973. is taken into account see also, Wood, 1977.. This mechanism involves collisions by the capturand with particle swarms expected in near-Earth orbit, adding significantly to energy loss by friction. Capture is furthermore, generally considered as the most probable mechanism for emplacement of many other satellites with abnormal features Burns, 1977., one of the most striking examples being Neptunes retrograde and massive moon, Triton McCord, 1966; cf. Fig. 5.. Finally, capture of the Moon would take place from a highly inclined orbit. The comprehen-

Fig. 5. Masses in grams. of systems of secondary bodies around their magnetized primaries. The diagram shows the abnormally large masses of the retrograde Neptunian satellite, Triton, which is considered to be captured McCord, 1966., and of our present Moon, which may likewise be captured from solar orbit. The original, normal satellites, postulated to have been swept up by the Moon and causing the major impacts in late lunar bombardment, would have had a total mass estimated by interpolation to be of the order 10 21 10 22 g, compared to 0.74=10 26 g for the Moon. From Alfven and Arrhenius, 1972a..

sive study of the lunar orbital evolution by numerical integration Goldreich, 1963, 1966. characteristically leads to a high inclination of the initial near-Earth orbit of the Moon. A high initial inclination of the proto-Moon can also be explained if it coalesced from a debris ring around the Earth Ward and Canup, 2000.. In the context of the present discussion of the late lunar bombardment, the question of a capture vs. collision origin of the Moon is, however, of secondary importance. The question of interest here is if a time delay of several hundred million years can be expected between emplacement of the Moon in near-Earth orbit and its interaction with original, much smaller satellites at a relatively large distance from the Earth. Such a delay would mainly depend on the distance from Earth of such moonlets and the rate of recession of the proto-Moon. Initially ignoring the potentially delaying effect of EarthMoon resonances Alfven and Arrhenius, 1969. or Moon Venus resonances Kaula, 1971., the rate of increase


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

in distance from Earth of the receding Moon is given MacDonald, 1964. by dR s dt Q 3k

GM .

1r 2

mr 5 R 11 r 2


where R is the semimajor axis of the proto-lunar orbit, k the Love number and Q the specific dissipation factor for Earth, G the gravitational constant, M the mass, r the radius of Earth, and m the mass of the proto-Moon. The characteristic time for a given R is ts R s d Rrd r



5r 3

R 13 r 2

Q 3 kG 1r 2

M 7r 6 m


Integration of Eq. 2., coupled with modern measurements of the deceleration of the lunar longitude and thus, the slowing of the Earth, give the startling result of only 1.75 Ga for the evolution of the lunar orbit from close vicinity to the Earth to its present position, in clear contradiction of geological evidence MacDonald, 1964; Kaula, 1971.. Lambeck 1975. and Kaula and Harris 1973. have pointed to the uncertainly in the value of Q over time as a probable reason for this dilemma and the possibility that the controlling oceanic topography may have been different in the past, with substantially lower dissipation larger Q .. Munk 2000. has furthermore pointed to the likelihood that in near-interaction between Moon and Earth, vorticity dissipation is likely to have been saturated, introducing an effective delay factor in the recession of the satellite, regardless of its origin. If the late lunar bombardment was due to collision of the proto-Moon with original moonlets, these must have been located at such a distance from Earth that the Moon traversed between emplacement, about 4.4 Ga and bombardment between 4.0 and 3.5 Ga. Small bodies could have formed outside of a major lunar embryo in a collisionally generated accretion disk Canup and Esposito, 1996; Ida et al., 1997.. However, such moonlets close to Earth can not be held responsible for late lunar bombardment since the large exponent for R in Eq. 2. causes the massive proto-Moon to traverse near-Earth space comparatively rapidly, even if vorticity saturation is taken into account. The formation of regular satellite systems, such as those of the outer planets, and by analogy, also of

the Earth, are considered in several theories. As an example, the accretion theory developed by Safronov 1954, 1960, 1972. based on orbital dynamics, predicts the formation of swarms of secondary bodies around the planets Safronov and Ruskol, 1977. but does not specify their radial distribution. Considering the seminal influence that Safronovs general theory has had on developments in the West, the neglect of their application to satellite formation in the literature is notable. More specific predictions about the radial distribution of planets and satellites are based on the implied hydromagnetic control of circumstellar and circumplanetary plasma as observed in the planetary ionospheres and in the protoplanetary circumstellar disk medium Alfven and Arrhenius, 1974, 1976; Montmerle and Andre, 1988; Hjalmarson and Friberg, 1988; Bertout, 1988.. In the hydromagnetic theory for secondary body formation, the emplacement process is thought to be controlled by the critical velocity, Vc , of ionization for the infalling neutral component of the interstellar cloud plasma and by its interaction and partial co-rotation with the magnetic field of the central body De et al., 1977.. As verified by effects observed in the space medium, Vc s 2 eVionrMa .1r 2 , where Vion is the ionization potential of atoms with mass Ma and e the electron charge. The critical velocity effect was discovered in laboratory plasma experiments Danielsson, 1970, 1973., showing selective ionization of neutral gas moving through a magnetic field. Alfven and Arrhenius 1974. visualized this effect as the physical explanation of what Alfven had previously pointed out as a characteristic band structure of secondary bodies around their magnetized primaries in the solar system Fig. 6.. The statistical significance of the proposed band structure was investigated by Arrhenius and Arrhenius 1988.. The physical basis of the band structure model led De, in 1972 see De, 1978. to the prediction of rings inside the Roche limit of Uranus; these rings were later discovered by Elliot et al. 1977.; the relation of the prediction to the discovery is discussed by Brush 1996.. The observed parallelism in distribution of both primary and secondary bodies in terms of gravitational potential, together with the proposed explanation Fig. 6., implies that the Earth would also have been originally endowed with a satellite system of

G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982


Fig. 6. Distribution of secondary bodies planets and satellites. around their primaries Sun and the magnetized planets.. Orbital distances rorb . to the central bodies are normalized by relating them to the mass Mc . of the central body as a measure of gravitational potential energy, Eg , drawn as log Eg cmrg.. The individual systems are plotted in order of central body mass, normalized to the mass of the Sun M(.. The distribution of secondary bodies is perceived as a series of bands, corresponding to actual groups of critical velocities for ionization of dusty gas falling into the circumsolar region from the interstellar source cloud. The ragged edges of the bands indicate uncertainly in their extension; the physical reason for the slope of the bands is discussed in Alfven and Arrhenius 1974, 1976.. In the present context, the diagram serves the purpose of illustrating the possibility that Earth may originally have had two sets of small satellites, swept up by the abnormally large Moon, during the evolution of its orbit. The location of the outer band corresponds to the approximate MoonEarth distance, 3.83.5 Ga. The Moon is slowly receding and is presently located at log Eg 17.2, just below the letter R in EARTH. The MoonEarth resonances, where recession of the Moon could have been retarded in its early history are discussed in Alfven and Arrhenius 1969. from Alfven and Arrhenius, 1972b..

possibly a dozen moonlets and inside the Roche limit, perhaps also a ring. As is generally conceded,

our proto-Moon, regardless of its mode of formation, by capture or collision, receded toward its current


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

location at 60 Earth radii as a result of transfer of angular momentum by tidal exchange with Earth. It would, in this process, have slowly approached and interacted with any normal satellites that may have existed in its path, either by coalescence or ejection. Creation of the maria by late impact with pre-existing Earth satellites was proposed by Kaula 1971.. The probability of ejection by interaction with such moonlets, can perhaps best be judged by the fact that our solar system contains a large number of planetary satellites that are considered to have been created by collisional accretion of smaller bodies. One group of Earths original satellites would have been located in the Martian band, between 14 and 34 Earth radii, and another in the transposition of the SaturnianUranian band, between 2.9 and 6.3 Earth radii Fig. 6.. The latter, together with the inside-Roche ring transposed from Ariel and Miranda, would have been swept up first, when the precursor of our present Moon receded from nearEarth orbit and could have contributed to the frictional medium in the KaulaHarris mechanism for capture assistance. In the hydromagnetic model for satellite formation, the putative moons that appear in Earths gravitational equivalent to the Martian satellite band, would be the most likely candidates for interaction with the proto-Moon when it, at the time of the late lunar bombardment, had receded to 1r4 1r2 of its present distance from Earth. With sufficiently close similarity of orbital velocities at the time of the encounters, the collision velocities could, under conditions outlined by Canup and Esposito l.c.., have been close to the escape velocity for the Moon, around 2.4 kmrs. Collision velocities of the order of 2 kmrs would have substantial cosmetic effects on the surface of the Moon; ejecta with speeds below the escape velocity would have been recaptured and not be able to overcome the energy barrier for escape and diversion to Earthimpacting orbits. Debris from collisions exceeding escape velocity may have remained in lunar intersecting orbits for an extended time before ultimate capture by the Moon. Resonance locking in the EarthMoon system may have contributed to such delay, so far, of undetermined duration Canup and Esposito, l.c... Metastable storage around the Lagrangian points, L4 and L5, 608 before and after the Moon in its orbit may also

have held ammunition for the late bombardment until perturbations of the characteristic long orbital excursions from the libration points brought some of these bodies into collision with the Moon. Small amounts of dust are observed trapped around the Lagrangian points today Roach, 1975; Winiarsky, 1989.. Observable dust particles are probably continually removed from the libration region by the PoyntingRobertson effect and radiation pressure, and replenished by accumulation of interplanetary dust. A dynamic calculation is needed to evaluate the actual residence time of larger and thus, practically invisible solid bodies around the libration points. Assuming the direct applicability of Eq. 2., an estimate can be made from Eq. 3. of the radial distance range from Earth in which the receding proto-Moon would have encountered the outer band of small regular Earth satellites in a time period around 3.8 Ga, 600 million years after the initial emplacement of the Moon in near-Earth orbit by collision or capture, assumed to have taken place around 4.4 Ga.

tb ti

600 s 4400 s





With t b being the orbital evolution time, about 600 Ma, up to the late lunar bombardment, the radial distance, R b , of the Moon from Earth at the time of bombardment is found to be 44 Earth radii. This distance value is probably an upper limit, since the recession of the Moon could have been retarded by spin-orbit resonances with Earth Alfven and Arrhenius, 1972a. andror by resonance between Moon and Venus Kaula, 1971.. The distribution of accreting material in the region around 40 Earth radii extrapolated by hydromagnetic considerations would thus, seem to support the concept of the late lunar bombardment as a series of collisions, possibly accompanied by ejections, as the receding Moon crossed the orbits of an outer set of original, proportionately small satellites of the Earth. A potential impediment to such a hypothesis, particularly in conjunction with capture, could result from interference of the proto-Moon with the original small satellites already on its initial approach to Earth during the early evolution of a capture orbit.

G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982


The probability for such premature destruction of these bodies would be decreased by the high inclination of a capture orbit. However, model calculations of interactions at this stage would be desirable. The Martian surface, if represented by the meteorite, ALH 84001, has not been melted since its crystallization time, 4.5 Ga. ago. The surface layer of all of the terrestrial planets would have been melted if the projectiles causing the bombardment of the Moon had come from an external source Stevenson, 1988.. Extended observations from Mars could therefore contribute to the interpretation of the late lunar bombardment as a parochial lunar event or alternatively as an invasion, affecting the entire inner solar system.

4. Evidence from terrestrial sediments All current theories of lunar origin and collision history, suffer from dynamic difficulties and remain speculative. However, there are possibilities for verification of the circumstances around the late impacts. One consists of detailed examination of long sequences of the oldest laminated sediments, searching for and identifying depositional irregularities Sturkell, 1998., and meteorites, along with interplanetary dust embedded in the sediments Schmitz et al., 1997.. Quantitative element and mineral analyses of such sediments give information about their content of extraterrestrial matter, and if the total rate of sedimentation can be estimated, the rate of accretion of the cosmic component can also be determined Chyba, 1991.. Analyses by Ryder and Mojzsis 1998. of the metasediments from Akilia Island, off the coast of southern West Greenland, show no indication of enhancement of PGE above the average for crustal terrestrial rocks.

marauders, they would be expected to consist of undifferentiated cometary- or meteorite-type material, conferring their characteristic excess of PGE to the ejecta, with allowance for dilution with lunar target material. If they were to be identified with partly differentiated asteroids, some impact material would be depleted in PGE, but other samples, enriched in metal, would have a correspondingly enhanced PGE content. If, however, such a signature is found to be consistently absent in the samples representing the collision events, the most likely interpretation would be that the impacts were caused by metal-depleted low density materials of the kind that formed the Moon and possibly original Earth satellites. An integrating study Ryder and Mojzsis, 1998. of the total surface accumulation of PGE over lunar history, indicates that this amount is only 1.3% of what would be expected if the source had been meteoritic asteroidal. impactor material with a high PGE content. Again, this suggests that the late lunar bombardment was caused by projectiles with composition similar to the moon rather than asteroids. The necessarily speculative views of the hardships or even survival of life during the late lunar bombardment may now be replaced by searches in the oldest preserved records on our planet. The manifestations of planetary impacts may probably be found even in older samples from ancient terraces on Mars. Life on Earth, instead of as is often quoted, originating 3.53.8 billion years ago, is found to have already developed to a high degree of autotrophic sophistication before these age limits.

6. Planetary accretion, the early surface state and the emergence of life The processes that formed our planet and modified it in its initial stages, must also have determined the thermal state of the planetary surface and atmosphere. These developments predate the period of late heavy bombardment of the Moon, discussed above. The planetary accretion process and the initial state of the Earth, have been subjects of intense scientific inquiry in recent years, and it is generally agreed that the heat balance would have been controlled mainly by the rate of growth of the planet by

5. Evidence from late lunar impact ejecta A second approach toward verification involves analyses of such lunar samples that are chronologically identified with, and serving as the basis for conclusions about the late bombardment on the Moon. If the colliding objects were interplanetary


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

infall of extraterrestrial matter. If, as assumed in many theories, all of the planetary source material was emplaced around the Sun at one point in time instant nebula theories., the accretion rate would have increased exponentially with growing radius of the planet, because of its concurrent increase in gravitational attraction. The result would be an accretional runaway catastrophe with an initial Earth, covered by a magma ocean, extending perhaps to the depth of the upper mantle and obviously detrimental for an early development of a hydrosphere and of life. High accretional temperatures would also lead to the early removal of iron, which would sink toward the core, heating the planet even further by the release of the gravitational potential energy of the falling metal. In the absence of such a development, metallic iron would remain distributed in the outer layers of the planet and would serve as a potential reductant and hydrogen generator from water and hydroxyl ion as discussed below. With the high temperature of the planet, its volatiles would have been evaporated into a dense atmosphere which would form an effective blanket, delaying radiative cooling for an extended time, as on Venus. Protagonists of such scenarios therefore propose that this heavy primitive atmosphere was removed, e.g. hydrodynamically, with the aid of hydrogen as a carrier gas, propagated by strongly enhanced UV radiation from the early Sun Hunten, 1993.. Such a process may also explain the critical features of noble gas abundances in the present atmosphere Pepin, 1991.. Erosion of the atmosphere by the impact of large bodies could also have effectively stripped off an early atmosphere but only before Earth had accumulated a gravitational mass comparable to Mars Matsui and Abe, 1986; Ahrens et al., 1989.. Consequently, these processes could only have been effective in the early stages of solar and planetary evolution. After formation of the planet, stripping of the proto-atmosphere would, however, also be likely to accompany a collision event of the magnitude invoked in the currently popular theory for the origin of the Moon and involving a colliding planet larger than Mars, as discussed above. The stripping models also introduce the need for a secondary atmosphere that could arise after radiative

cooling, following removal of the presumed dense, thermally insulating proto-atmosphere. Such a secondary atmosphere would provide a medium for the eventual emergence of life; its source and composition are consequently of importance in this context. Different sources have been proposed for such a post-cooling atmosphere, surviving in chemically modified form today. One is an assumed late veneer of cometary material; another is the solidifying volatile-laden upper mantle, releasing gases originally dissolved in equilibrium with a dense proto-atmosphere. After arrival of a comparatively high transparency of the atmosphere in the infrared region, radiative cooling would rapidly allow a solid crust to form, and internal heat could, as today, be relatively efficiently transferred to the surface by upwelling of molten rock in mid-ocean ridge systems. In an intermediate accretion scenario, developed by Wetherill 1994., calculations starting with already formed planetesimals, lead to a distribution of orbits with a wide range of eccentricities and inclinations. In this case, planetesimals in near-Earth orbits would have been captured at a high rate, leading to an adolescent Earth at high surface temperature. The remaining population of planetesimals of approximately lunar size and in highly eccentric and inclined orbits, would have been captured at a lower rate, each with catastrophic local or regional effects but because of their small size, incapable of necessarily melting the entire planet. The heterogeneous accretion theory originally suggested by Eucken 1944., and further developed by Turekian and Clark 1969., specifically avoids the catastrophic melting of the entire planet as a result of core formation by gravitational segregation in the already completed planet; a fateful consequence of homogeneous accretion. The heterogeneous scheme assumes that an early accretional episode involved iron-rich material, spatially or temporally separated in the space medium. Later episodes would then add the silicate-rich space condensates making up the main mass of the Earth, contained in its mantle and similar in density to Mars, the Moon and asteroids. Various processes have been proposed that could have led to such separation e.g. Orowan, 1969; Danielsson, 1973; Canup and Esposito, 1996.. Considerations of the evolution of the Earths core based

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on isotopic measurements of Hf and W Halliday et al., 1996. would also be displaced from Earth to its dispersed precursor medium if the fractionation took place there. The actual occurrence of such fractionation in the inner solar system is suggested by the large density differences between, on one hand, Earth and Venus; on the other, Mars, Moon and the asteroids. Mercury represents material with particularly high density, presumably richer in iron than the other planets. In the case of the Moon, its proposed collisional removal from the mantle of a differentiated Earth has been suggested as a reason for its low density Wanke et al., 1984., but this does not explain the large density differences between the other bodies in the inner solar systems. Alfven and Arrhenius 1973, 1974. have emphasized control of the early accretional process by the orbital dynamics of the charged solid particles in the dusty plasma observed around young stars. They also avoided the hypothesis of an instant nebula that assumes all source material for the planets, at one single time, to be present in the circumsolar region, after falling in from the interstellar source cloud for our solar system. As observed in young stellar objects surrounded by protoplanetary discs, such infall of condensates from the molecular source cloud, does not appear to be constant, but episodic Lada, 1988.. The variability of infrared luminosity in such objects, thought to result from variations in material supply, can now, for obvious reasons, only be recorded on a human time scale. It is, however, also reasonable to assume lower frequency events of enhanced infall of material into the solar nebula. Such episodic emplacement events would have decisive effects on the orbital dynamics of the accreting system. Elaborating on the hypothesis of heterogeneous accretion, Alfven and Arrhenius l.c.. assumed an initial accretion of the present metallic core of the Earth Fig. 7.. Later condensate emplacement episodes would, with this gravitational center in place, lead to the efficient capture of new material by the Earth-embryo without an opportunity for this material to form large separate planetisimals. After runaway formation of the core, the mantle of the Earth could, under such conditions, have been growing as a result of a large number of minor impacts, each causing local melting and degassing, but with

Fig. 7. Accretional model for Earth, based on the assumption of formation of the core ; 0.5 R[ . from material initially emplaced in Earths accretional feeding zone in the solar nebula. Accumulation of this mass would exponentially increase the gravitational attraction of the planetary embryo and end with a catastrophic runaway accretion phase. After temporary depletion of Earths feeding zone, accretion of the core would be followed by accumulation of the mantle by gradual infall and sweep-up of material from the interstellar source cloud. Observations of T-Tauri stars support the notion of such episodic infall of matter onto their circumstellar discs see text.. This model provides rationales for a separate accretional composition of core and mantle, and for a low average temperature of the planetary surface during accumulation of the mantle. It therefore, also permits gradual retention of liquid water and emergence of life during the late stages of Earth accretion. From Arrhenius et al., 1974..

the average temperature of the Earths surface maintained low; a hot spot accretion of a type advocated by Schmidt 1944. and Vinogradov et al. 1971.. In this extreme, the surface layer of the growing Earth may never have been entirely molten at any given time. A hydrosphere could begin to develop as soon as the gravitational field permitted the retention of liquid water at a size of the planetary embryo somewhat larger than the core Fig. 7.. Heterogeneous accretion of the planets is also favorable for models seeking to maximize the rate of generation of methane and hydrogen from water and carbon dioxide. This would be effectuated by the oxidation of metallic iron forming a dispersed minor component in the silicate mantle. The production of hydrogen, methane and ammonia by this mechanism would favor the formation of reduced organic com-


G. Arrhenius, A. Lepland r Chemical Geology 169 (2000) 6982

pounds of biogenic importance. The destruction and escape rate of reducing gases would also be minimized Miller and Lyons, 1998.. The reduction process would, in such models, be localized in the temporary hot spots generated by impacts, separated in space and time. In heterogeneous accretion scenarios with early accretion of an iron-rich core, followed by comparatively slow growth of a silicate mantle at low average surface temperature, the planet could have already become habitable during or soon after planetary formation, up to 4.5 billion years ago. This would permit several hundred million years for the emergence of life, which is first seen in already enzymatically sophisticated form in rocks older than 3.75 billion years. Heterogeneous accretion theories, thus, connect with biopoesis scenarios that for intuitive reasons, wish for the longest possible time available for the emergence of life on Earth. It is worth emphasizing, however, that there is no factual or even speculative evidence, for the length of time required for the origin of life Orgel, 1998..

Bostrom and two anonymous reviewers, and are greatly appreciated. Generous research support was provided by NASAs Office of Space Science by grants, NAGW-1031 and NAG5-4563, and by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

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Acknowledgements All of the considerations above, illustrate that time is of essence. The contributions by Professor Wasserburg and his collaborators to precision timing and elucidation of processes on Earth and Moon and in interplanetary space, have been of fundamental importance for understanding events in the most distant past. With this paper, we wish to express our thanks for the inspiration and insights that he has provided and doubtlessly, will continue to give. The authors wish to thank Kevin Zahnle and Stephen Mojzsis for extensive discussion of the range of subjects at hand, and Peter Appel for supporting and coordinating our field studies as part of the Isua Multidisciplinary Research Project in southern West Greenland and for discussion of the results. We are also indebted to Stephen Moorbath, Minik Rosing, Chris Fedo, Martin Whitehouse, Victor McGregor and Alan Nutman for valuable views on tectonic, sedimentary and chronological relationships in the Isua complex. Constructive review comments were received from Dr. Christopher McKay, Prof. Robert

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