It has been reported that recently investigated Moon rocks have exposed the first actual evidence of an ancient collision that created Earth’s personal satellite, strengthening a long-held science belief. The rocks were collected by astronauts who were on NASA’s Apollo missions but new-fangled scanning electron microscopes now allow researchers to detect chemical traces of a planet believed to be about the size of Mars which was thought to have smashed against Earth about 4.5 billion years ago.
When the prehistoric planet, known as Theia, crashed into the Earth, it sent debris out in space. It is believed that the Moon came to be formed from all that rubble. Planetary scientists first came up with this idea in the aftermath of the July 20, 1969, Apollo moon landing, offering an account for why the world has such a gigantic Moon.
Dr. Daniel Herwartz, who works at the Georg-August-Universitat Gottingen in Germany, and his group reported the findings about Theia in the most recent edition of the journal Science. The doctor stated that if the Moon formed mostly from the remains of Theia, as foretold by the majority of arithmetical models, the Earth and Moon should be different.
Previous examinations of Moon rocks had never been meticulous enough to disclose any kind of difference in the lunar make-up between them and rocks which came from Earth. However Dr. Herwartz and his colleagues were able to find a slight but important difference. There were around 12 parts per million more of a heftier type of oxygen atom located within the Moon rocks, and that served to prove as a thumbprint for Theia.
Dr. Herwartz explained that the solar system at that time was basically a shooting gallery. All of the planets whirled around inside a disk of dusty material spinning around the new sun and even sporadically smacked into one other. The scientist added that he believed the young Earth and Theia both formed in the same area of the proto-planetary disk, and probably were made from the same sort of material. The Moon is most likely made up of 30 to 50 percent of Theia. However if the rogue planet was predominantly enhanced with the denser kind of oxygen, an isotope known as oxygen-17, then it may just make up less than 30 percent of the Moon.
There is another alternative but it is considered extremely unlikely. It states that the Earth and Theia could have been chemically duplicates but that the Earth was later struck by an asteroid or comet which had a lot of water on it. Those early oceans would have then readjusted Earth’s oxygen make-up. Dr. Herwartz stated that the theory was possible but not likely. However if that had been the case, the material which was added to the Earth after the Moon’s creation) had to have been extremely unusual. Meteorites that have just such a mysterious arrangement must also have been extremely rich in water to cause such a make-up.
Moon rocks that have recently been examined have possibly shown the first actual evidence of an ancient collision that created Earth’s personal satellite, therefore strengthening a long-held science belief. The rocks were collected by astronauts who were on NASA’s Apollo missions but novel scanning electron microscopes have let science researchers detect chemical traces of a planet believed to be about the size of Mars which is thought to have smashed against Earth about 4.5 billion years ago and then created the Moon.
By Kimberly Ruble
National Geographic News