Isotopes Confirm Moon Impact Event

For 30 years, the prevailing model for the Moon’s formation has included a major collision. When a Mars-sized object, referred to as Theia, slammed into Earth’s surface in a unexpectedly special way it liquefied Earth many miles deep, vaporized Theia, and ejected enough material to form the Moon. Three recent discoveries affirm the vast superiority of this giant impact model compared to any other Moon formation scenario.

planet-collisionPrevious research indicates that most of the material in the Moon came from Theia. Since Theia and Earth formed in different regions of the solar nebula, they should have noticeably different compositions. However, scientists had not yet found the expected variations in specific elements. More recent results have now revealed key differences between Earth and Moon oxygen isotopes.1 The new research also indicates that scientists might be able to identify Theia’s original composition (and, thus, location of formation).

The giant impact model also explains why the dark side of the Moon looks so different from the side we see (the near side). Tidal forces have locked the Moon into a situation where the same side always faces Earth. Not until satellites first orbited the Moon 55 years ago did scientists see the mismatch between the two sides. In the giant impact model both Earth and Theia started out molten, but the Moon’s smaller size meant it solidified more rapidly. With the Moon tidally locked, heat from the molten Earth caused its near side to cool more slowly, while the dark side cooled more quickly, concentrating a greater amount of aluminum, calcium and other hard-to-vaporize elements. Thus, the dark side formed a much thicker crust. Meteoroids striking the near side of the Moon would occasionally punch through the crust, but those that hit the dark side never penetrated the thicker crust.

Additional confirmation of the giant impact model came from research by Harvard scientists. Though the energy from an impact large enough to form the Moon would have deposited sufficient energy to liquefy Earth completely, that energy might not have distributed evenly through the planet. So some parts of the earth never liquefied. The Harvard team found isotopic evidence indicative of incomplete melting. If the result holds under further scrutiny, these chemical signatures would enable scientists to understand Earth’s primordial composition prior to contamination from the impact.

The giant impact model continues to provide a compelling explanation for how Earth hosts such a large satellite. Not only does the Moon serve an important role in keeping Earth habitable, but its formation via giant collision also demonstrates remarkable fine-tuning.

 

Endnotes

  1. Daniel Herwartz et al., “Identification of the Giant Impactor Theia in Lunar Rocks,” Science 344 (June 6, 2014): 1146–50.
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2 Responses to “Isotopes Confirm Moon Impact Event”
  1. Dane french says:

    Please remember scripture is the sword it is the truth Jesus is the way the truth and the life when he left after his death went to sit at the right hand of God he sent the Holy Spirit for each saint forever until his second coming to help or to be our helper , I mean your helper and my helper . This is how scripture is understood or is made to be understood . The truth of Scripture comes by reading the Bible and Holy Spirit he interprets it the word into my heart this comes after prayer and meditation on the word . when people start throwing things out there on how the universe was created usually science and if you look closely enough non-Christian science . Pray and read the word carefully and let the Holy Spirit interpret the meaning of your question. I speak this in a loving way so that people Christians can know the truth the truth of our Creator . In Jesus name I pray all who read this are blessed .
    Dane .

  2. Dane french says:

    Hi Jeff ! Why would God who can speak things into existence throw a planet at the earth and knock it into the Goldilocks position ? If that were the case , say that did happen could you imagine God throwing little rocks at each other to create . just sounds little bit funny and Beneath God don’t you think . I’m just sharing with another Christian brother . it’s not scriptural on how the Father created the universe the moon the stars etc. I know what the Scripture says by the Holy Spirit and quite literally believe on every word of the Bible in context . All God did was breathe the universe into existence the sun and the moon are part of his great universe tell me what you think about what the Holy Spirit laid on my heart thank you very much in Christ .
    Dane. .

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