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What is the origin of the Moon?

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4.5 million years ago, a massive object collided with our planet. After a period of chaos, this is how the Earth acquired its Moon.

Even despite the hundreds of artificial satellites that cloud the celestial vault, the same object dominates the night sky for millions of years. The Moon, the only natural satellite of the Earth, has accompanied our planet throughout its geological history, governing the movement of the seas and part of its gravitational dynamics.

Throughout centuries of astronomical observation, there has been extensive debate about the origin of the Moon. NASA documents that, 4.5 million years ago, «an object the size of Mars crashed into the early Earth«. From its debris, our only natural satellite was formed. This is what we know.

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‘Theia’: the theory that explains the origin of the Moon

origin of the moon
Laura O’Dogherty (@lau.s.photography)

The Moon formed after massive collision of two planetary bodies. This NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) theory ensures that the collision was between the Earth and an embryo planet, which forever changed the natural history of our planet and its natural satellite billions of years ago. This cosmic object is known as ‘Theia‘.

It seems that Theia had an orbit around the Sun very close to that of the Earthbillions of years ago. This condition caused them to collide with each other, since they were getting in each other’s way around the star. After the violent collision, Theia almost completely disintegrated.

Although originally the size of Mars, lost much of its mass upon impact with our planet. Consequently, great changes in the Earth’s atmosphere were promoted. What was left of that massive celestial body was trapped by the Earth’s gravitational field.

Since then, according to this theoretical proposal, the Moon has been orbiting our planet. Although this theory about the formation of the Moon is widely accepted, skeptical NASA scientists they question how did the atmosphere of the earth is radically different from that of its natural satellite. Although the theory was originally proposed in the 1970s, there are still many loose ends to be resolved.

Also read: Where does the strange shadow that is printed on the Moon during total eclipses come from?

What is currently thought about it?

A recently published study by Science realizes about the noble gases that exist on the Moon today. Most likely, after thousands of years of meteor or comet impacts, the satellite has accumulated ice, oxygen and neon on its surface.

In fact, it seems that the Moon has enough oxygen to supply Earth during at least 100 thousand years. In this regard, the researchers think that this phenomenon is inherited from the cosmic crash that Theia had with our planet millions of years ago:

«[…] We conclude that the Moon inherited noble gases indigenous to the Earth’s mantle by the Moon-forming impact and propose storage in the reservoir enriched with incompatible elements,” the authors explain.

After the massive collision that gave rise to the Moon, it seems that the Earth acquired his magnetic field. For its part, the satellite remained arid and lifeless. During some stage of its geological history, lunar volcanoes are known to have existed. However, since then the surface of the satellite has remained practically the same. So far, there is no conclusive evidence to the contrary.

Keep reading:

The ice that covers the poles of the Moon comes from ancient volcanoes, suggests a study

NASA scientists managed to grow plants on lunar soil for the first time in history

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