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Determining the origin of the building blocks of the Ice Giants based on analogue measurements from comets

Abstract : The abundances of the heavy elements and isotopic ratios in the present atmospheres of the giant planets can be used to trace the composition of volatiles that were present in the icy solid material that contributed to their formation. The first definitive measurements of noble gas abundances and isotope ratios at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) were recently published by Marty et al. (2017) and Rubin et al. (2018, 2019). The implications of these abundances for the formation conditions of the 67P/C-G building blocks were then evaluated by Mousis et al. (2018a). We add here an analysis of the implications of these results for understanding the formation conditions of the building blocks of the Ice Giants and discuss how future measurements of Ice Giant atmospheric composition can be interpreted. We first evaluate the best approach for comparing comet observations with giant planet composition, and then determine what would be the current composition of the Ice Giant atmospheres based on four potential sources for their building blocks. We provide four scenarios for the origin of the Ice Giants building blocks based on four primary constraints for building block composition: (1) the bulk abundance of carbon relative to nitrogen, (2) noble gas abundances relative to carbon and nitrogen, (3) abundance ratios Kr/Ar and Xe/Ar, and (4) Xe isotopic ratios. In situ measurements of these quantities by a Galileo-like entry probe in the atmosphere(s) of Uranus and/or Neptune should place important constraints on the formation conditions of the Ice Giants.
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Submitted on : Friday, May 13, 2022 - 10:52:26 AM
Last modification on : Sunday, May 15, 2022 - 3:03:24 AM

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K. E. Mandt, O. Mousis, S. Treat. Determining the origin of the building blocks of the Ice Giants based on analogue measurements from comets. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2020, 491, pp.488-494. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stz3061⟩. ⟨insu-03667141⟩

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