Simulations Suggest New Model On How Moon Was Formed

According to this theory, the Moon is a single object formed in a giant collision between the ancient Earth and a small Mars-like planet.

Apollo's Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell collected rocks and used tubes to dig up soil while exploring the moon's Fra Mauro highlands in February 1971.

"T$3 he composition similarity between the Earth and the moon in the giant impact can not be explained without using a special Earth-like impactor", said lead author Raluca Rufu, a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, according to Space.com.

Among the debris were small moonlets that later merged with one another and with the debris disks around Earth to form our large Moon.

Such multiple hits would have kicked up more Earth material than a single one into the Earth's orbit to form moonlets that closely resemble the Earth's composition, the researchers said. Hagai Perets, of the Technion, and Weizmann Institute Raluca Rufu (lead author) and Prof.

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Moons may slowly migrate outwards because of the tidal forces from Earth. "What's nice about building the moon in stages is that some of the impacts can get stuff off the Earth and into orbit, and another set can set the Earth spinning".

To resolve these problems, Rufu and her colleagues ran over 1,000 computer simulations of different kinds of events-repeatedly changing the size of the impactors and the number of collisions-that could, in theory, result in an Earth-moon system like the one we have. The researchers conducted almost 800 computer and numerical simulations, providing specific conditions.

A previous study based on the same samples also showed the moon formed early, within 68 million years of the solar system's birth.

And when you look at what our moon is made of, the ingredients and their ratios are similar to Earth's.

This new idea - known as the multiple impact theory - challenges the popular hypotheses that the moon is the result of one giant impact.

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"The new scenario does not require finely tuned initial conditions, and if the smaller moonlets, as we think, were drawn into the same orbit, they could have merged over millions of years", Rufu said in a statement.

This version of the moon's origin story solves the big chemistry question that dogs proponents of the giant impact model.

For the Moon to be as Earth-like as it is, a single impactor would have had to have a very Earth-like composition, she said.

Small collisions like this were common in the early solar system, and support their premise.

"The whole giant impact model had been put into crisis several years ago", Sarah Stewart, a planetary physicist at the University of California at Davis, told The Washington Post last year, "to the point where people thought it might be completely wrong because we couldn't make it work in its details". Perets, who added that, "a previously formed moon could therefore already exist when another moon-forming giant impact occurs".

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