Transregional Collaborative Research Center TRR 170 Berlin-Münster: Late Accretion onto Terrestrial Planets (LATP)


The late growth history of the terrestrial planets, from the last giant collisions with planetary embryos to the subsequent late bombardment with smaller objects, is of critical importance for understanding the early chemical differentiation processes and the evolution of the terrestrial planets. The goal of this research program is to improve our current understanding of the late-accretion history of the Earth, its Moon, and other terrestrial planets from 4.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. A multidisciplinary approach will provide novel insights into the timing and rates, chemical budget, and geodynamic implications of late accretion and will constrain the physicochemical boundary conditions during this time interval. We will:

  1. constrain the timing and distribution of basin-forming impacts on the Moon in order to improve basic parameters of the cratering chronology in the early solar system,
  2. quantify the mass of the materials accreted between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years,
  3. characterize the composition of late-accreted materials,
  4. refine our current estimate of the present-day budget of a spectrum of critical volatile and metal-loving elements in Earth, Moon, and in other terrestrial planets,
  5. test the hypothesis that late-accreted materials were rich in volatile elements and had similar compositions as material delivered towards the end of the main planetary building stages prior to 4.5 Ga, and
  6. develop quantitative models for the evolution of the terrestrial planets in the relevant time interval.

The combined results will also refine our fragmentary understanding of several key processes during the early evolution of the terrestrial planets, such as the role of giant impacts in volatile loss processes and core formation, the formation and evolution of magma oceans, the transition to solid-state convection of planetary mantles, time scales of homogenization of chemical and isotopic heterogeneities, and the cooling history of the terrestrial planets. The scientific programme will be complemented with an interdisciplinary Integrated Research Training Group in Planetary Sciences, the only graduate programme of its kind in Germany. The programme will bundle the expertise in planetary remote sensing, planetary physics, geodynamic modelling, cosmochemistry and geomaterial sciences at the participating institutes in Berlin and Münster and will offer fellowships for visiting scientists and students from abroad to actively participate in courses, summer schools and workshops. TRR 170 also strives to increase the proportion of women in planetary sciences and to create a family-friendly environment by offering extra financial support and advice for participants at various academic levels and by following DFG’s cascade model during hiring of doctoral students and postdocs.

Participating Institutions:

Freie Universität Berlin (FUB, Speaker University), Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster (WWU), Museum für Naturkunde - Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Berlin (MfN), Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt Berlin (DLR)

Principal Investigators:

Prof. Dr. Harry Becker (FUB, Speaker), Prof. Dr. Addi Bischoff (WWU), Prof. Dr. Doris Breuer (DLR), Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hansen (WWU), Prof. Dr. Harald Hiesinger (WWU), Prof. Dr. Timm John (FUB), Prof. Dr. Thorsten Kleine (WWU, Deputy Speaker), Prof. Stephan Klemme, PhD (WWU),  Prof. Dr. Lena Noack (FUB), Prof. Jürgen Oberst, PhD (TUB), Prof. Dr. Heike Rauer (TUB), Jun.-Prof. Dr. Arno Rohrbach (WWU), Prof. Erik Scherer, PhD (WWU), Dr. Frank Sohl (DLR), Prof. Andreas Stracke, PhD (WWU), Dr. Kai Wünnemann (MfN).

Phase 1 (2016-2019):

15 Scientific projects, 8 postdocs, and  21 doctoral students, Integrated Research Training Group Planetary Sciences, Central management project, Summer/Winter School program, guest scientist program, graduate student fellowship programs, annual retreats, gender equality and family-related support programs, public outreach activities.

Project areas:

A: Timing of late accretion

B: Chemical budget of late accretion

C: Geodynamic implications of late accretion