Onset of Giant Planet Migration before 4480 Million Years Ago

Stephen J. Mojzsis, Ramon Brasser, Nigel M. Kelly, Oleg Abramov, Stephanie C. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Soon after their formation, the terrestrial planets experienced intense impact bombardment by comets, leftover planetesimals from primary accretion, and asteroids. This temporal interval in solar system evolution, termed late accretion, thermally and chemically modified solid planetary surfaces and may have impeded life's emergence on the Hadean (pre-3850 Ma) Earth. The sources and tempo of bombardment, however, remain obscure. Here we present a timeline that relates variably retentive radiometric ages documented from asteroidal meteorites to new dynamical models that invoke an early episode of planetesimal-driven giant planet migration after the dispersal of the protoplanetary disk. Reconciliation of geochronological data with dynamical models shows that such giant planet migration should lead to an intense ∼30 Myr influx of comets to the entire solar system manifested in radiometric age data. The absence of wholesale crustal reset ages after ∼4450 Ma for the most resilient chronometers from Earth, Moon, Mars, 4 Vesta, and various meteorite parent bodies confines the onset of giant planet migration to ca. 4480 Ma. Waning impacts continue to strike the inner planets through a protracted monotonic decline in impactor flux, in agreement with predictions from crater chronology. New global 3D thermal analytical bombardment models derived from our revised impact mass-production functions show also that persistent niches for prebiotic chemistry leading to the emergence of life on the early Hadean Earth could endure late accretion since at least about 4400 million years ago.

Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 10 2019



  • meteorites, meteors, meteoroids
  • minor planets, asteroids: general
  • planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this