How did the moon form – hundreds of millions of years ago? To date, this question has not been fully clarified. Some believe that the Moon could have been “separated” from the primordial Earth (“fission theory”), while others hold that the Moon formed elsewhere and was “captured” by the Earth, and a joint formation was also brought into play.
Thea’s “Giant Effect”
But one theory is an obvious favourite, the massive effect theory. Here, a planet about the size of Mars (sometimes referred to as “Theia”) is thought to have collided with the primordial Earth. The debris from this collision (a mixture of molten rock and hot gas) first formed what appeared to be a disk and later formed the moon.
Geochemists and petroleum scientists ETH Zurich They have now published a study in the journal Science Advances in which they report that the Moon “inherited” helium and neon from the Earth’s mantle. According to a press release from the researchers, this supports the “giant effect” theory. “Our discovery means that the noble gases must also be included as a factor in the theory of the giant impact,” says Henner Busemann, professor at the Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology at ETH Zurich. Researchers from Zurich, led by doctoral student Patrizia Weil, analyzed six samples of lunar meteorites, which came from NASA and were collected in Antarctica. In these samples, the content of the noble gases neon and helium in the separated glass was determined and was much more than expected. The solar wind can be ruled out as a source, so the gases must come from within the Moon and thus ultimately be inherited from the Earth.
The researchers explain it as follows: “The young moon was volcanically active. The magma is rapidly accumulating and solidifying at the surface. Due to the rapid cooling, glass particles were formed in which the noble gases neon and helium were preserved. More lava flowed rapidly. This layer of magma covered and protected from Cosmic rays, especially the solar wind.
Lunar meteorites later came to Earth through an asteroid impact, because as you can also see on the cratered surface of the moon, asteroids are constantly colliding or hitting there. Someone may have hit a large piece of the moon and “moved” it to Earth.
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