Scientists are proud to announce they figured out how the Moon formed and why it is so similar in composition to the Earth. A series of studies recently published in the scientific journal Nature revealed some new facts about the history of Earth’s satellite. One study suggests the Moon may have formed after a collision between a young Earth and another planet, very similar to ours.
Researchers named the other planet Theia, and they claim it is only slightly different than Earth in composition, the two planetary bodies sharing different isotopes of the same chemical elements. According to their “giant impact hypothesis”, the last of the Earth’s clashes with lighter planets gave birth to the Moon.
Scientists from Israel and France came up with a modeling study focused on the continuous agitation existing near the center of our Solar System in his early days. Collisions between orbital bodies were rather frequent during that period, and the Earth itself might have been subjected to several such brutal clashes. According to their estimates, the debris resulting from the last collision stuck together laying the ground for what would later become the Moon.
Researchers ran several advanced computer simulations, and some behavior looked consistent on each one of them. During a large period of time, of up to 200 million years, each series of collisions led to the creation of three or four other planetary bodies. If the Moon was indeed born following this scenario, this prompts another conclusion: the last planet Earth collided with was almost its twin.
Two of the studies published in Nature journal reviewed the similarities and differences between the composition of rocks on Earth and on the Moon. After close comparison and after running the computer simulations, astronomers could only conclude that the material forming the Earth’s only satellite is the result of a collision between our planet and another one with a slightly different isotopic composition.
The study authors argue that the Earth clashing with its tiwn was not a miracle. “It turned out it is not a rare event … On average, impactors are more similar to the planets they impact compared with different planets in the same system,” Alessandra Mastrobuono-Battisti, from Israel’s Institute of Technology in Haifa, wrote in a press statement.
Mastrobuono-Battisti also argued that she and her team are the first to explore this possibility. While astronomers keep their minds open about the origins of the Moon, currently the great collision theory is the most plausible explanation. “I don’t think we have a better alternative at this time,” Richard Walker, with the University of Maryland, acknowledged.
Image Source: Alchemipedia