Magma oceans as a critical stage in the tectonic development of rocky planets

Laura Schaefer, Linda Elkins-Tanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Magma oceans are a common result of the high degree of heating that occurs during planet formation. It is thought that almost all of the large rocky bodies in the Solar System went through at least one magma ocean phase. In this paper, we review some of the ways in which magma ocean models for the Earth, Moon and Mars match present-day observations of mantle reservoirs, internal structure and primordial crusts, and then we present new calculations for the oxidation state of the mantle produced during the magma ocean phase. The crystallization of magma oceans probably leads to a massive mantle overturn that may set up a stably stratified mantle. This may lead to significant delays or total prevention of plate tectonics on some planets. We review recent models that may help alleviate the mantle stability issue and lead to earlier onset of plate tectonics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180109
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2132
StatePublished - Nov 13 2018


  • Accretion
  • Differentiation
  • Magma oceans
  • Planet formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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