A holistic approach to understand Earth formation

  grant N. 101019380



How did Earth form with the properties that made it the only inhabited planet of the Solar System?

Answering this question is the Holy Grail of planetary science and is key for

  • placing the formation of Earth into the context of general planet formation
  • unveiling the fundamental processes that led to the formation of a planet able to sustain life and
  • assessing the likelihood that similar processes occurred in other, extrasolar systems.

However, despite decades of research, it is still unknown how Earth formed. The Earth seen from Apollo 17 with white backgroundAlthough several competing models exist, the reason we do not yet have a consensus on how Earth formed is that all proposed models have only been tested against a limited number of constraints (and sometimes different constraints for different models) with no common intersection.

HolyEarth will overcome these limitations by developing a holistic approach to understand Earth’s formation that is based on the largest set of observational constraints: orbits, masses, formation timescales, chemical and isotopic properties of terrestrial planets and meteorites, and the structure of the asteroid belt (the relict of planet formation).

The overarching goal of this project is to identify a unique scenario which, for the first time, simultaneously satisfies all these constraints in a self-consistent way.

This project will break the boundaries between Earth science and astronomy by placing the formation of Earth in the context of a cosmic evolution towards stars and planets. Its impact will reach other scientific domains, such as biology and exobiology, and resonate with the public’s keen interest in the question of our origins.