NOV 09, 2015 02:40 PM PST

New Theories Arise Over the Formation of the Moon

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
AUG 01, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 01, 2018
Exoplanet Habitability May Depend on the UV Light Emitted by the Host Star
Does the type of light being emitted by a host star impact the probability of life popping up on any of its orbiting exoplanets? Citing a study led by rese...
SEP 11, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 11, 2018
Asteroid Mining Could Make Deep Space Missions Possible
  Deep space missions are faced with several challenges, including human safety and resource limitations, but asteroid mining could potentially solve...
OCT 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 23, 2018
NASA Fixes Hubble's Gyroscope Issue, Tests Planned for Near Future
On October 5th, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope experienced a troublesome gyroscope malfunction. Onboard software attempted to rectify the issue by kic...
OCT 24, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 24, 2018
NASA's Parker Solar Probe Snaps a Picture of Earth
Back in August, a Delta IV Heavy rocket ignited its engines and lofted NASA’s highly-anticipated Parker Solar Probe into space. Just over one month l...
NOV 04, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 04, 2018
Mass Destruction-Causing Solar Events Could Be Lurking Around the Corner
The Sun, the center of our planetary system, is always nurturing and providing. But when it is having a "bad" day, we on Earth could be taking so...
NOV 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 04, 2018
Roscosmos Discerns Cause of Faulty Soyuz Launch, Expects to Resume Launches
Just last month, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft poised to send an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station failed mid-flig...
Loading Comments...