This Changes How We Thought The Moon Was Made

Janis ColeJan 12, 2017

It was both physics and good fortune, the new study suggests, that those hits produced the moon we have today.

A current theory about how the Moon was formed is that the Earth had collisions with other objects.

"It's likely that small moons formed through the process could cross orbits, collide and merge", said Rufu, and Perets summarizes "A long series of such moon-moon collisions could gradually build-up a bigger moon - the Moon we see today". They say the moon isn't a single chunk of rock but an amalgamation of almost two dozen "moonlets", one that was formed during a steady bombardment of Earth by several smaller bodies.

Theories on the formation of Moon had been a puzzle for scientists.

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But one mystery has persisted, revealed by rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back from the moon - why are the moon and Earth so similar in their composition?

She noted that the moon holds "so much magic. the key to understand how our attractive Earth formed and evolved". According to Raluka Rufu, lead author of the study, if the moon was created by a Mars-like object hitting the Earth, it would be expected the moon would contain materials from that large body.

That means the moon was formed over millions of years, not in an instant, said the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, which published a study on the revelation Monday. Theia sideswiped our planet roughly 4.4 billion years ago, scattering debris that eventually coalesced into the moon, which drifted away and started to circle the Earth.

By the time another moon forms, a pre-existing moon would slowly move out. Even then, the moon would not be safe, until its angular momentum caused it to migrate out at a rate of about 1.5 in (4 cm) per year, eventually reaching its current, stable orbit 230,000-mi (370,000 km) miles from Earth.

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This concept has directly contradicted a theory that suggested how one giant impact resulted to the formation of the moon.

"Our model suggests that the ancient Earth once hosted a series of moons, each one formed from a different collision with the proto-Earth", says co-author Hagai Perets of Israel's Technion.

Furthermore, some moonlets surely failed to collide properly to form the Moon or lost in the vast space, said Collins in the Companion Article. The solar system was a shooting gallery in its first few hundred million years-an era called the heavy bombardment period-with all manner of debris causing all manner of collisions.

Each collision would have sent a spray of debris into orbit around Earth, forming disks made mostly of material from Earth (rather than the impactor).

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"In the early stages of the solar system, impacts were very abundant, therefore it is more natural that several common impactors formed the moon rather than one special one", Rufu told the AFP.

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