A pebble accretion model for the formation of the terrestrial planets in the Solar System

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Science Advances  17 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 8, eabc0444
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc0444


Pebbles of millimeter sizes are abundant in protoplanetary discs around young stars. Chondrules inside primitive meteorites—formed by melting of dust aggregate pebbles or in impacts between planetesimals—have similar sizes. The role of pebble accretion for terrestrial planet formation is nevertheless unclear. Here, we present a model where inward-drifting pebbles feed the growth of terrestrial planets. The masses and orbits of Venus, Earth, Theia (which later collided with Earth to form the Moon), and Mars are all consistent with pebble accretion onto protoplanets that formed around Mars’ orbit and migrated to their final positions while growing. The isotopic compositions of Earth and Mars are matched qualitatively by accretion of two generations of pebbles, carrying distinct isotopic signatures. Last, we show that the water and carbon budget of Earth can be delivered by pebbles from the early generation before the gas envelope became hot enough to vaporize volatiles.

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