A new study has found that a simulated collision between a Mars-sized object and the early Earth may have created the Moon in just a few hours. The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, used computer simulations to recreate the conditions that may have led to the formation of the Moon. The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggest that the Moon may have formed from a giant cloud of debris that was ejected into orbit around Earth after a massive impact. While the study is not conclusive, it provides new insight into how the Moon may have been formed and how it affects the Earth-Moon system today.
What is the Moon?
The Moon is a natural satellite of the Earth, consisting of rock, dust, and ice. It orbits the Earth every 27.3 days and has an average distance from the Earth of 384,400 km (238,900 mi). The Moon has no atmosphere and is gravitationally tidally locked with the Earth, meaning that one side always faces towards the planet.
The Moon is thought to have formed around 4.51 billion years ago, not long after the formation of the Solar System. The most widely accepted theory is that the Moon was created when a Mars-sized body collided with the young Earth. This impact would have blasted material from both bodies into orbit around the Earth where it coalesced to form the Moon. This process is known as the Giant Impact Hypothesis.
How was the Moon created?
The Moon was created when a Mars-sized body slammed into the young Earth, according to a new computer simulation. The impact would have blasted material from both bodies into orbit around our planet. Over time, this debris coalesced to form the Moon.
The new study, published in the journal Science, used sophisticated computer simulations to reconstruct the Moon-forming impact. Researchers found that such a collision could explain many of the peculiarities of the Moon, including its size and composition.
Previous models suggested that the impactor body was about the size of Mars, but this new study shows that it could have been even larger. The researchers say that an impactor twice the size of Mars is more likely to explain the observed features of the Moon.
This giant impact would have been so powerful that it completely vaporized both bodies and sprayed their contents into orbit around Earth. This debris then began to coalesce and form the Moon. The process would have taken just a few hours, according to the new simulations.
The Simulated Collision
The impact of a Mars-sized body slamming into the young Earth created both the Moon and the Pacific Ocean basin, according to new computer simulations.
The work builds on an earlier model that showed how a glancing blow by a smaller body could have spun off the material that became the Moon. But that model couldn’t explain the size or speed of the resulting impact, or why it would have been focused in one area.
The new simulations, published in the journal Nature, suggest that a more energetic collision is needed to match what we see in the solar system today. And it provides an explanation for why the impact was focused in one area: The collision must have been nearly head-on, which would have been more likely if the body hit Earth when it was already spinning fast.
“It’s a really elegant solution to a long-standing problem,” said Robin Canup, an astrophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who wasn’t involved in the study.
What does this mean for the future of the Moon?
The answer to the question of how the Moon was created has been a mystery for centuries. One popular theory is that a planet-sized body called Theia collided with Earth, causing material from both bodies to be ejected into orbit around Earth. This debris eventually coalesced to form the Moon.
Now, researchers have used computer simulations to show that such a collision could explain the unique composition of the Moon. Their work suggests that the impactor body, Theia, must have been at least twice as large as previously thought in order for the resulting Moon to have the same composition as Earth.
This new finding has implications for our understanding of the early solar system. It also means that the impact that formed the Moon was probably much more energetic than previously thought, and would have had profound consequences for the aftermath of the collision.