In a recent study supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology program, exoplanet researchers examined how giant impacts during planet formation can affect the chemical makeup of super-Earths. Observations of rocky super-Earths around distant stars have shown that many of these planets have a wider chemical distribution in their core to mantle ratios than planets in our solar system.

The team took recent advances in planet formation simulations developed for the Solar System and applied them to extrasolar super-Earths. In doing so, the they modeled potential changes in the composition of planets after impact events. The results produced ratios similar to those seen in the Solar System, but did not match the distribution observed in super-Earth data. This suggests that other mechanisms could be at play in shaping the chemical compositions of such planets.

The study, “Chemical Diversity of Super-Earths As a Consequence of Formation,” was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS). The work was supported by the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS).  NExSS is a NASA  research coordination network supported in part by the  NASA Astrobiology Program. This program element is shared between NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and the Astrophysics Division. This research is a critical part of NASA’s work to understand the Universe, advance human exploration, and inspire the next generation. As NASA’s Artemis program moves forward with human exploration of the Moon, the search for life on other worlds remains a top priority for the agency.