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The Once and Future Moon

Hit-and-Run Science

28 Sep 2012, 16:39 UTC
Hit-and-Run Science
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Two new and very different scientific studies may revise our understanding of the Giant Impact that supposedly created the Moon.

Computer simulation of the "hit-and-run" impact scenario for lunar origin. Sequence progresses in time from bottom right to top left. From Reufer et al. (2012) Icarus 221, 296.
The origin of the Moon is a long-standing problem in planetary science. Reconstructing complex events in the distant past is difficult and requires both knowledge and imagination. The facts to be explained are relatively straightforward. The Moon’s overall density (about 3.3 grams per cubic centimeter) and bulk chemical composition are about the same as that of the mantle of the Earth, suggesting a possible relationship between the two. The idea that Earth and Moon are compositionally related is supported by the ratio of isotopes of oxygen in the lunar samples, which indicate that Earth and Moon are made from matter derived from the same region of the solar nebula (material that is compositionally distinct from that making up the various meteorite groups). Finally, the Earth and Moon collectively have a very high angular momentum, mostly as a consequence of the high spin rate of Earth and the relatively large mass of our ...

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