Constraints on the pre-impact orbits of Solar system giant impactors

Alan P. Jackson, Travis S.J. Gabriel, Erik I. Asphaug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We provide a fast method for computing constraints on impactor pre-impact orbits, applying this to the late giant impacts in the Solar system. These constraints can be used to make quick, broad comparisons of different collision scenarios, identifying some immediately as low-probability events, and narrowing the parameter space in which to target follow-up studies with expensive N-body simulations. We benchmark our parameter space predictions, finding good agreement with existing N-body studies for the Moon. We suggest that high-velocity impact scenarios in the inner Solar system, including all currently proposed single impact scenarios for the formation of Mercury, should be disfavoured. This leaves a multiple hit-andrun scenario as the most probable currently proposed for the formation of Mercury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2924-2936
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Celestial mechanics
  • Methods: numerical
  • Moon
  • Planets and satellites: formation
  • Planets and satellites: terrestrial planets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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