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Consequences of giant impacts on early Uranus for rotation, internal structure, debris, and atmospheric erosion.

Kegerreis, J. A. and Teodoro, L. F. A. and Eke, V. R. and Massey, R. J. and Catling, D. C. and Fryer, C. L. and Korycansky, D. G. and Warren, M. S. and Zahnle, K. J. (2018) 'Consequences of giant impacts on early Uranus for rotation, internal structure, debris, and atmospheric erosion.', Astrophysical journal., 861 (1). p. 52.


We perform a suite of smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations to investigate in detail the results of a giant impact on the young Uranus. We study the internal structure, rotation rate, and atmospheric retention of the post-impact planet, as well as the composition of material ejected into orbit. Most of the material from the impactor's rocky core falls in to the core of the target. However, for higher angular momentum impacts, significant amounts become embedded anisotropically as lumps in the ice layer. Furthermore, most of the impactor's ice and energy is deposited in a hot, high-entropy shell at a radius of ~3 R ⊕. This could explain Uranus' observed lack of heat flow from the interior and be relevant for understanding its asymmetric magnetic field. We verify the results from the single previous study of lower resolution simulations that an impactor with a mass of at least 2 M ⊕ can produce sufficiently rapid rotation in the post-impact Uranus for a range of angular momenta. At least 90% of the atmosphere remains bound to the final planet after the collision, but over half can be ejected beyond the Roche radius by a 2 or 3 M ⊕ impactor. This atmospheric erosion peaks for intermediate impactor angular momenta (~3 × 1036 kg m2 s−1). Rock is more efficiently placed into orbit and made available for satellite formation by 2 M ⊕ impactors than 3 M ⊕ ones, because it requires tidal disruption that is suppressed by the more massive impactors.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:18 May 2018
Date deposited:10 July 2018
Date of first online publication:02 July 2018
Date first made open access:10 July 2018

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