Origin and evolution of the atmospheres of early Venus, Earth and Mars

Helmut Lammer, Aubrey L. Zerkle, Stefanie Gebauer, Nicola Tosi, Lena Noack, Manuel Scherf, Elke Pilat-Lohinger, Manuel Güdel, John Lee Grenfell, Mareike Godolt, Athanasia Nikolaou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We review the origin and evolution of the atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars from the time when their accreting bodies were released from the protoplanetary disk a few million years after the origin of the Sun. If the accreting planetary cores reached masses ≥0.5 MEarth before the gas in the disk disappeared, primordial atmospheres consisting mainly of H2 form around the young planetary body, contrary to late-stage planet formation, where terrestrial planets accrete material after the nebula phase of the disk. The differences between these two scenarios are explored by investigating non-radiogenic atmospheric noble gas isotope anomalies observed on the three terrestrial planets. The role of the young Sun’s more efficient EUV radiation and of the plasma environment into the escape of early atmospheres is also addressed. We discuss the catastrophic outgassing of volatiles and the formation and cooling of steam atmospheres after the solidification of magma oceans and we describe the geochemical evidence for additional delivery of volatile-rich chondritic materials during the main stages of terrestrial planet formation. The evolution scenario of early Earth is then compared with the atmospheric evolution of planets where no active plate tectonics emerged like on Venus and Mars. We look at the diversity between early Earth, Venus and Mars, which is found to be related to their differing geochemical, geodynamical and geophysical conditions, including plate tectonics, crust and mantle oxidation processes and their involvement in degassing processes of secondary N2 atmospheres. The buildup of atmospheric N2, O2, and the role of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 to counter the Faint Young Sun Paradox (FYSP), when the earliest life forms on Earth originated until the Great Oxidation Event ≈ 2.3 Gyr ago, are addressed. This review concludes with a discussion on the implications of understanding Earth’s geophysical and related atmospheric evolution in relation to the discovery of potential habitable terrestrial exoplanets.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages72
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics Review
Volume26
Early online date10 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Primordial atmospheres
  • Secondary atmospheres
  • Atmospheric evolution
  • Early Earth, Venus, Mars
  • Habitability

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