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Early evolution and habitability of rocky planets

Abstract : At the end of the accretion phase, rocky planets grow through high energetic impact processes. Combined with other heat sources, they most likely melt the surface of the planets, forming an ocean of molten rocks. The cooling and solidification of this early so-called magma ocean strongly influences the earliest compositional differentiation and volatile distribution of the planet. Indeed, this common early evolution stage of rocky planets witnesses the degassing of the atmosphere and sets the initial conditions for the long-term evolution of the planets. It is thus of major importance in understanding the formation of the primitive water ocean, the onset of thermally driven mantle convection and the diversity of observed terrestrial planets.Using a coupled magma ocean-atmosphere thermal evolution model, we investigated the cooling of the planet and the surface conditions reached at the end of this early stage. We studied how the initial volatile content and the distance from the star influence the formation of a water ocean at the end of the cooling for both cloud-free and cloudy atmospheres. We extended this approach to planets orbiting colder stars than the Sun.The relative amount of H2O and CO2 in the atmosphere can preclude water ocean formation, leading to solid surface planets without water ocean. Scaling laws are derived to predict the formation of a water ocean as a function of the initial volatile content.The presence of a thick cloud cover extends clement surface conditions close to the star and allows for water ocean formation on early Venus. Such temperate conditions might be suitable for the emergence of life and suggest that, depending on the cloud cover, the Earth and Venus might not be as different as previously thought at the end of the magma ocean stage.For stars colder than the Sun, water ocean formation is shifted to farther star distances. The cooling effect of clouds becomes less efficient for cold stars whose inner edge of the temperate zone tends to be independent of the cloud cover.
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Arnaud Salvador. Early evolution and habitability of rocky planets. Planetology. Université Paris Saclay (COmUE), 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018SACLS439⟩. ⟨tel-02134107⟩

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