NOV 09, 2015 2:40 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
JUL 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Light from the Big Bang Reveals Age of the Universe
JUL 31, 2020
Light from the Big Bang Reveals Age of the Universe
From analyzing ancient light emitted by the Big Bang, physicists have been able to provide a new estimate of the Earth&# ...
SEP 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth's Atmosphere Causes Moon to Rust
SEP 07, 2020
Earth's Atmosphere Causes Moon to Rust
Researchers from the University of Hawaii have noticed that the Moon is turning slightly red or 'rusty'- and tha ...
OCT 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
OCT 01, 2020
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
  Researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy have confirmed the existence of four large lakes under the ice at M ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
Researchers have identified an exoplanet that appears to have an atmosphere composed of vaporized rock and oceans runnin ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
NOV 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why Do Some Stars Take Longer to Cool than Others?
NOV 26, 2020
Why Do Some Stars Take Longer to Cool than Others?
At the end of their life cycle, stars like our sun become 'white dwarfs'. Cooling over billions of years from th ...
Loading Comments...