Kevin J. Zahnle

Learn More
Large asteroid impacts produced globally lethal conditions by evaporating large volumes of ocean water on the early Earth. The Earth may have been continuously habitable by ecosystems that did not depend on photosynthesis as early as 4.44 Gyr BP (before present). Only a brief interval after 3.8 Gyr exists between the time when obligate photosynthetic(More)
Life is constructed from a limited toolkit: the Periodic Table. The reduction of oxygen provides the largest free energy release per electron transfer, except for the reduction of fluorine and chlorine. However, the bonding of O2 ensures that it is sufficiently stable to accumulate in a planetary atmosphere, whereas the more weakly bonded halogen gases are(More)
It has been suggested that a decrease in atmospheric methane levels triggered the progressive rise of atmospheric oxygen, the so-called Great Oxidation Event, about 2.4 Gyr ago. Oxidative weathering of terrestrial sulphides, increased oceanic sulphate, and the ecological success of sulphate-reducing microorganisms over methanogens has been proposed as a(More)
The low O2 content of the Archean atmosphere implies that methane should have been present at levels approximately 10(2) to 10(3) parts per million volume (ppmv) (compared with 1.7 ppmv today) given a plausible biogenic source. CH4 is favored as the greenhouse gas that countered the lower luminosity of the early Sun. But abundant CH4 implies that hydrogen(More)
In the beginning the surface of the Earth was extremely hot, because the Earth as we know it is the product of a collision between two planets, a collision that also created the Moon. Most of the heat within the very young Earth was lost quickly to space while the surface was still quite hot. As it cooled, the Earth's surface passed monotonically through(More)
The martian valley networks formed near the end of the period of heavy bombardment of the inner solar system, about 3.5 billion years ago. The largest impacts produced global blankets of very hot ejecta, ranging in thickness from meters to hundreds of meters. Our simulations indicated that the ejecta warmed the surface, keeping it above the freezing point(More)
The present biosphere is shielded from harmful solar near ultraviolet (UV) radiation by atmospheric ozone. We suggest here that elemental sulfur vapor could have played a similar role in an anoxic, ozone-free, primitive atmosphere. Sulfur vapor would have been produced photochemically from volcanogenic SO2 and H2S. It is composed of ring molecules,(More)
We have modeled the evolution of an impact-generated steam atmosphere surrounding an accreting Earth. The model assumes Safronov accretion; it includes degassing of planetesimals upon impact, thermal blanketing by a steam atmosphere, interchange of water between the surface and the interior, shock heating and convective cooling of Earth's interior, and(More)
We exploit recent theoretical advances toward the origin and orbital evolution of comets and asteroids to obtain revised estimates for cratering rates in the jovian system. We find that most, probably more than 90%, of the craters on the Galilean satellites are caused by the impact of Jupiter-family comets (JFCs). These are comets with short periods, in(More)