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The kinetic energy is converted from mass and velocity into heat energy when it strikes the growing body. This energy, and therefore heat, is considerable, and if accretion occurs fast enough, the larger body can be heated all the way to melting by accretional kinetic energy. If the larger body is melted even partially, it will differentiate.

How is energy transfigured into heat, and how is heat transformed into melting? To transfer energy into heat, the type of material has to be taken into consideration. Heat capacity describes how a material's temperature changes in response to added energy. Some materials go up in temperature easily in response to energy, while others take more energy to get hotter. Silicate minerals have a heat capacity of 245.2 cal/°lb (1,256.1 J/°kg). What this means is that 245.2 calories of energy are required to raise the temperature of one pound of silicate material one degree. Here is a sample calculation. A planetesimal is about to impact a larger body, and the planetesimal is a kilometer in radius. It would weigh roughly 3.7 X 1013 pounds (1.7 X 1013 kg), if its density were about 250 pounds per cubic foot (4,000 kg/m3). If it were traveling at six miles per second (10 km/sec), then its kinetic energy would be