If we compressed the history of the solar system into 75 minutes, the process for the formation of the Earth would barely cover the first 3 minutes of that time. And in this story, how long did it take for the Moon to be born and form? It would have taken just a few nanoseconds (in that universe).
We return to the real scales. Billions of years ago, our Earth was very different from the one we live on today. A hot Object, ‘half-done’, subjected to multiple impacts. One of them, that of a planet the size of Mars: the tea planet. From that collision the Moon began to form, which soon cooled down.
Until now, it was thought that this piece of hot rock that was fired took years to form what we know as the Moon. But new NASA research presents a different theory: the Moon it took just a handful of hours to form, someday, at most.
“This opens up a universe of possible starting points for the evolution of the Moon,” said Jacob Kegerreis, postdoctoral researcher at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley (USA) and lead author of the paper on these results published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The formation of the Moon, in a spectacular simulation
“We went into this project not knowing exactly what the results of these high-resolution simulations would be. The big reveal is that the standard resolutions can give you misleading answers” explained Kegerreis in the presentation.
The simulations used to learn how long it took for the Moon to form are some of the most detailed ever used. Understanding the origins of the Moon requires using what we know about the dough mole, orbit and the analysis of samples of selenite rocks and devise scenarios that could drive how and how long it took for the Moon to form.
The prevailing theories so far could explain some aspects of lunar properties quite well. But the pending mystery has been to answer why the composition of the Moon is so similar to that of the Earth. Something that fits, on the one hand, with the idea that the Moon is a piece of the Earth from the impact of Tea. But not in everything.
Lunar samples studied in laboratories show signatures of isotopes (unstable atoms) very similar to rocks on Earth, unlike rocks on Mars. So we assume that most of the mass of the Moon (or its surface) is terrestrial. doWhy are there so few traces of Tea? Did the Moon take more or less time to form than thought?
If the Moon took a while to form, it is logical that there are no remains of Tea
Even assuming that Tea twisted its orbit and mixed only a little with material from Earth, you wouldn’t expect to see such strong similarities between the Moon and our planet. But the newly released model assumes that more material from Earth was needed to create the Moon, particularly its outer layers.
Other theories have been proposed to explain these similarities in composition, such as the model of synestia, where the Moon forms within a whirlpool of vaporized rock from the collision. But that doesn’t explain our satellite’s current orbit well.
if the moon it didn’t take long in training and did in a single stage, we have “a cleaner and more elegant explanation for these two problems,” they explain from NASA. It could also provide new ways to “find answers to other unsolved mysteries.”
“The more we learn about how the Moon formed, the more we discover about the evolution of our own Earth”, says Vincent Eke, a researcher at the University of Durham and co-author of the article. “Their stories of him are intertwined, and could be repeated on other planets changed by similar or very different collisions.
This scenario may put the Moon in a wide orbit, with an interior that is not completely molten. This would explain why it has a tilted orbit and such a thin crust.
Getting closer to confirming which of these theories is correct will require analysis of future lunar samples brought back to Earth for study by NASA’s future Artemis missions, for now, stalled.
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