Scientists: The moon could "break away" from the ancient Earth

Geophysicists at ETH Zurich have discovered new evidence hinting at an Earth origin for the moon. An article about this appeared in the journal Science Advances.

According to the hypothesis, the Earth’s satellite separated from the planet in ancient times. This may have been the result of a collision with the protoplanet Theia – a space object the size of Mars – about 4.5 billion years ago. At that time, the Earth was “very young”, about 60 million years old.

To test their theory, the scientists used a mass spectrometer to study the composition of six lunar meteorites found in the ice of Antarctica. The results of the study confirmed the content of the noble gases of helium and neon. Their isotopes match those found in the so-called solar wind. However, lunar rocks covered with basalt were not affected by it. According to scientists, this proves that these rocks are originally of terrestrial origin.

Samples of lunar meteorites / NASA/ETH Zurich/Patrizia Will

The small mass of the Moon and the absence of iron also hint at kinship with our planet. By the way, about 30% of the mass of the Earth is concentrated in the iron-rich core, which, according to studies, was not affected by the collision. Also, the rocks of the Moon’s mantle are very similar in composition to those on Earth, but at the same time they are very different from Martian meteorites.

The very hit of fragments of the Moon on Earth is easily explained by the fact that the satellite has no atmosphere, it is constantly “attacked” by asteroids. Perhaps the latter once simply “knocked out” fragments of the Moon, which later ended up on Earth, the authors of the study suggest.

In the future, scientists hope to continue studying the fragments of lunar meteorites, of which there are more than 70,000 in the NASA collection.

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