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The European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU)

Timing the Onset of Giant Planet Migration

Awarded Resources (in core hours)
Vega GPU
System Partition
1 April 2022 - 31 March 2023
Allocation Period

How did the Earth and the other terrestrial planets form? Even though there are many models in existence that attempt to solve this question, all of them suffer from specific shortages that can only be overcome with next-generation computation facilities.

At present the rapid formation of Mars – which has been constrained to occur within 5 Myr from hafnium-tungsten chronology of martian samples – can only be reproduced with simulations on GPUs starting with tens of thousands of planetesimals. Yet these same simulations fail to reproduce the growth of the Earth, which various radiometric chronometers indicate took place in roughly 30 ± 10 Myr. Simulations that reproduce Mars only generate more Mars analogues but no Earth and Venus analogues. These models assume, however, that the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn remained on static orbits, even though there is overwhelming evidence that they migrated and that this migration dynamically stirs the inner solar system.

Here we want to employ high-resolution GPU simulations to test the hypothesis that the migration of the gas giant triggered the formation of Earth and Venus. We shall use various epochs of the onset of this migration (10, 20, and 30 Myr after the formation of the Sun) to test which timing works best to begin the merger of the Mars analogues towards Venus and Earth analogues.

The timescale on which these giant impacts take place is 10-20 Myr, from which the onset of giant planet migration can be calculated. We aim to run some 20 high-resolution GPU simulations starting with 8k-13k self-gravitating planetesimals together with 5 giant planets (the gas giants and 3 ice giants, one of which will be ejected) and simulate the evolution of the inner solar system as the giant planets migrate and scatter each other.

The main scientific and sociological advance is that the planetary science community is one step closer to unravelling the dynamical history of the early solar system.

The main technical advance is progress in parallelisation algorithms specific to planet formation and planetary dynamics/celestial mechanics.