Scientists are clear about how the Moon must have formed billions of years ago. What they are not so clear about is how exactly it was formed. Right now there are several proposals and a new simulation could have the key.
Billions of years ago, a version of our Earth that looked very different from today was hit by a Mars-sized object called Theia, and from that collision formed the Moon. Now you may be with your hands on your head, but this is what is known for a fact.
Exactly how that formation occurred is a scientific puzzle that researchers have studied for decades.without a conclusive answer. What is clear to us is that the Sun has witnessed all this for millennia.
Most theories state that the Moon it formed from the debris of this collision, coalescing in orbit over months or years. But this is not confirmed, hence the importance of the new information from NASA about our planet and its satellite.
A new simulation proposes a different theory: the Moon could have formed immediately, in a matter of hours, when material from the Land and Theia was launched directly into orbit upon impact.
A puzzle of planetary history: the Earth and the Moon
The simulations used in this research are some of the most detailed of their kind, since run at the highest resolution of any simulation ever done to study the origins of the Moon or other giant impacts.
This additional computational power showed that lower resolution simulations can miss important aspects of these types of collisions, allowing researchers to see new behaviors emerge in a way that previous studies couldn’t.
To understand the origins of the Moon it is necessary to use what we know about it -our knowledge of its mass, orbit and precise analysis of lunar rock samples- and come up with scenarios that could lead to what we see today.
One of the most outstanding mysteries has been why the composition of the Moon is so similar to that of our planet, Earth.
In order to confirm which of these theories is correct, it will be necessary to analyze future lunar samples brought back to Earth for study from future NASA Artemis missions.
As scientists gain access to samples from other parts of the Moon and from deeper on the lunar surfacethey will be able to compare how real-world data matches these simulated scenariosand what they indicate about how the Moon has evolved over its billions of years of history.
Beyond learning more about the Moon, these studies may bring us closer to understanding how our own Earth became the life-supporting world it is today. On Earth, we know that the impact with Theia and other changes are part of how life originated.
The better scientists can simulate and analyze what is at stake in these collisions, the more prepared we will be to understand how a planet it could evolve to be habitable like our own Earth. And the Moon It is a key part of everything.