Earth could have lost anywhere between ten and 60 per cent of its atmosphere in the collision that is thought to have formed the Moon.
New research led by Durham University, UK, shows how the extent of atmospheric loss depends upon the type of giant impact with the Earth.
Researchers ran more than 300 supercomputer simulations to study the consequences that different huge collisions have on rocky planets with thin atmospheres.
Their findings have led to the development of a new way to predict the atmospheric loss from any collision across a wide range of rocky planet impacts that could be used by scientists who are investigating the Moon’s origins or other giant impacts.
They also found that slow giant impacts between young planets and massive objects could add significant atmosphere to a planet if the impactor also has a lot of atmosphere.