Magma oceans in the inner solar system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

298 Scopus citations


Theory and observations point to the occurrence of magma ponds or oceans in the early evolution of terrestrial planets and in many early-accreting planetesimals. The apparent ubiquity of melting during giant accretionary impacts suggests that silicate and metallic material may be processed through multiple magma oceans before reaching solidity in a planet. The processes of magma ocean formation and solidification, therefore, strongly influence the earliest compositional differentiation and volatile content of the terrestrial planets, and they form the starting point for cooling to clement, habitable conditions and for the onset of thermally driven mantle convection and plate tectonics. This review focuses on evidence for magma oceans on planetesimals and planets and on research concerning the processes of compositional differentiation in the silicate magma ocean, distribution and degassing of volatiles, and cooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-139
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Accretion
  • Atmospheric degassing
  • Crust formation
  • Differentiation
  • Planetesimal
  • Volatile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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