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A low mass for Mars from Jupiter’s early gas-driven migration


Jupiter and Saturn formed in a few million years (ref. 1) from a gas-dominated protoplanetary disk, and were susceptible to gas-driven migration of their orbits on timescales of only 100,000 years (ref. 2). Hydrodynamic simulations show that these giant planets can undergo a two-stage, inward-then-outward, migration3,4,5. The terrestrial planets finished accreting much later6, and their characteristics, including Mars' small mass, are best reproduced by starting from a planetesimal disk with an outer edge at about one astronomical unit from the Sun7,8 (1 au is the Earth–Sun distance). Here we report simulations of the early Solar System that show how the inward migration of Jupiter to 1.5 au, and its subsequent outward migration, lead to a planetesimal disk truncated at 1 au; the terrestrial planets then form from this disk over the next 30–50 million years, with an Earth/Mars mass ratio consistent with observations. Scattering by Jupiter initially empties but then repopulates the asteroid belt, with inner-belt bodies originating between 1 and 3 au and outer-belt bodies originating between and beyond the giant planets. This explains the significant compositional differences across the asteroid belt. The key aspect missing from previous models of terrestrial planet formation is the substantial radial migration of the giant planets, which suggests that their behaviour is more similar to that inferred for extrasolar planets than previously thought.

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Figure 1: The radial migration and mass growth imposed on the giant planets in the reference simulation.
Figure 2: The evolution of the small-body populations during the growth and migration of the giant planets, as described in Fig. 1 .
Figure 3: Distributions of 100-km planetesimals at the end of giant planet migration.
Figure 4: Results of the eight terrestrial planet simulations.


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K.J.W. and A.M. were supported by the Helmholtz Alliances ‘Planetary Evolution and Life’ programme. S.N.R and A.M.M. were supported by the EPOV and PNP programmes of CNRS. D.P.O’B. was supported by the NASA PG&G programme. A.M.M. was also supported by the NASA post-doctoral programme and the Goddard Center for Astrobiology. We thank the Isaac Newton Institute DDP programme for hosting some of us at the initial stage of the project; we also thank J. Chambers for comments that improved the text. Computations were done on the CRIMSON Beowulf cluster at OCA.

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Authors and Affiliations



K.J.W. managed the simulations and analysis and was the primary writer of the manuscript. A.M. initiated the project, updated and tested software, ran and analysed simulations, and wrote significant parts of the manuscript. S.N.R. helped initiate the project, advised on simulations and contributed substantially to the manuscript. D.P.O’B. helped initiate the project and assisted in writing. A.M.M. assisted in software updates and in writing.

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Correspondence to Kevin J. Walsh.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Walsh, K., Morbidelli, A., Raymond, S. et al. A low mass for Mars from Jupiter’s early gas-driven migration. Nature 475, 206–209 (2011).

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