What if the Moon had formed in a few hours?

What if the Moon had formed in a few hours? That’s what a new simulation suggests.

Our Moon It has always been part of the decoration, so to speak. And yet, it remains very mysterious. The formation of him, in particular, is still debated. The most popular theory is that it was the result of the giant impact between Earth and an embryonic Mars-sized planet, Theia, but how long did it take for the satellite to form? A new simulation offers a slightly different answer.

What if the Moon had formed in a few hours?

The research results published in astrophysical journal letters They suggest that materials sent into orbit after the impact could have come together almost immediately, in just a few hours, to form the Moon. “This opens up a whole new range of possible starting points for the evolution of the Moon,” says Jacob Kegerreis, a postdoctoral researcher at theAmes Research Center NASA and lead author.

Previous hypotheses accounted for certain properties of the Moon, including its mass and orbit, but did not explain chemical compositions close to those of Earth. The idea that Theia was pulverized and then mixed with terrestrial matter does not lead to the conclusion of such a similarity between the two isotopic signatures. Unless, of course, Theia was very much like Earth.

This is suggested by a new simulation.

With this new high-resolution digital simulation carried out on a supercomputer, a greater part of the Earth’s mantle would have been involved in the creation of the Moon, which would explain the resemblance in composition. The model suggests that the Moon would be composed of 60% Earth material compared to 30% of the initial theory. And if indeed our satellite had formed quickly after the collision, this would have affected its cooling, a smaller amount of rock would have “melted” during its formation, to give rise to the composition we know today.

Furthermore, this theory would provide information about some little-known properties of the Moon, such as its tilted orbit or its relatively thin crust. There is no doubt that lunar samples recovered from below the surface and returned by the Artemis missions should help researchers confirm or invalidate this hypothesis.

And as always, these discoveries could give us a better understanding of our own planet. Vincent Eke, a researcher at Durham University and co-author of the paper, said: “The more we learn about the birth of the Moon, the more we discover the evolution of our own Earth. Their histories are intertwined and could find echoes in histories on other planets altered by similar or very different collisions.”

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