The energy budget and figure of Earth during recovery from the Moon-forming giant impact

Simon Lock, Sarah T Stewart, Matija Cuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Quantifying the energy budget of Earth in the first few million years following the Moon-forming giant impact is vital to understanding Earth's initial thermal state and the dynamics of lunar tidal evolution. After the impact, the body was substantially vaporized and rotating rapidly, very different from the planet we know today. The subsequent evolution of Earth's energy budget, as the body cooled and angular momentum was transferred during lunar tidal recession, has not been accurately calculated with all relevant energy components included. Here, we use giant impact simulations and planetary structure models to calculate the energy budget at stages in Earth's evolution. We show that the figure and internal structure of Earth changed substantially during its post-impact evolution and that changes in kinetic, potential, and internal energy were all significant. These changes have important implications for the dynamics of tidal recession and the thermal structure of early Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115885
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date23 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • planet formation
  • Earth
  • Tides
  • giant impact
  • Moon
  • planetary structure
  • Rotation


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