Realistic collisional water transport during terrestrial planet formation: Self-consistent modeling by an N-body--SPH hybrid code
According to current evidence the water inventory of Earth (and perhaps similar exoplanets) was transported inwards via (giant) collisions during the chaotic final phase of planet formation. In dynamical simulations water delivery is still studied almost exclusively by assuming oversimplified perfect merging (PM), even though it is particularly prone to collisional transfer and loss. To close this gap we have developed a framework to model collisional water transport by direct combination of long-term N-body computations with dedicated 3D SPH simulations for each collision. Post-collision water inventories are self-consistently traced further, in accretionary or erosive as well as hit-and-run encounters. The latter are frequent outcomes among protoplanets, where besides collisional losses, water transfer between the encountering bodies has to be considered. This hybrid approach enables us for the first time to trace the full dynamical and collisional evolution of ~200 bodies throughout the whole late-stage accretion phase (several 100 Myrs). As a first application we choose a Solar System-like architecture, with already formed giant planets on either circular or eccentric orbits and a debris disk spanning from 0.5 - 4 au. Realistic collision treatment leads to considerably different results than PM, with lower mass planets and water inventories reduced by a factor of two or more. Due to a combination of collisional losses and considerably lengthened accretion, final water contents especially with giant planets on circular orbits are strongly reduced to more Earth-like values. Water delivery to potentially habitable planets is dominated by few decisive collisions, mostly with embryo-sized or larger bodies. The high frequency of hit-and-run, with generally low water (and mass) transfer efficiencies, are a crucial part of this process, and of system-wide evolution in general.