NOV 09, 2015 02:40 PM PST

New Theories Arise Over the Formation of the Moon

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The surface of the Earth and the surface of the Moon share similar surface compositions. One of the main differences between the two that has baffled scientists for years is that the Moon is significantly lacking something that the Earth has – volatile metals – such as potassium, sodium, and zinc. These elements are volatile because of the fact that they can react so easily when exposed to normal conditions.

Since the Earth has a plentiful supply of these volatile metals, and the Moon seems to have very little, if any, it’s suggested in a new study that the formation of the Moon may have been due to a large Mars-sized object smashed into the Earth, causing not only a hunk of the Earth to go flying into Space, but also a large dust disk to accumulate around the Earth’s surrounding space.

"One of the key differences, that's been known since the Apollo sample return, is that the Moon is much more depleted in so-called volatile elements - those that vaporize easily as you heat up material," said Dr. Robin Canup, the new study's lead author, from the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, US. "And the origin of this depletion has been essentially unknown.”
 


This disk is the key to the Moon’s formation, and it’s also potentially the answer to why the Moon lacks the volatile materials the Earth has. The disk can be split into two parts – the inner and the outer.
 
Because of all of the heat in the inner part of the disk where the chunk of rock was forming while orbiting the Earth, volatile metals were never able to build up on the surface of the young would-be Moon because they were being vaporized. The surface is the only part of the Moon that we’ve ever sampled, which would explain why the surface is lacking so much of the volatile materials that the Earth has.
 
As for the volatile metals that were surrounding the Earth in the outer disk after the impact, rather than getting pulled towards the Moon and becoming a part of it, they likely rained back down to the Earth. Any volatile materials in the outer disk would have been kept cooler than those getting absorbed by the Moon in the inner disk.
 
This theory could explain why our planet has such as volatile material-rich surface contrast to the Moon. So far, it’s the most detailed explanation to date.

Source: Nature Geoscience

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
SpaceX's Starhopper Prototype Makes First Untethered Flight
SpaceX made significant progress on its deep-space Starhopper starship project last week after a prototype of the spacecraft’s rocket conducted its f...
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
Everything We Know About Triton So Far...
Our solar system is chock-full of moons besides the one that orbits our own planet, and perhaps one of the most intriguing of them all is Neptune’s m...
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
The Science Behind the First Powered Flight on Another Planet
NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission involves much more than just another land-based rover – it will also pioneer the very first powered flight on...
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
How Much Do You Know About NASA's Voyager Missions?
NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft each launched in 1977 for a unique opportunity to explore the solar system’s outermost planets in unprecedent...
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
SpaceX Puts Another 60 Starlink Satellites Into Orbit
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that stood tall and proud at the launch pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ignited its engines and lofted a g...
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
How Close is SpaceX to Sending Humans to Space?
NASA is one of the world’s most capable space agencies, but a crippling budget prevents it from developing a new space vehicle of its own. Instead, N...
Loading Comments...