Scientists Propose New Theory Of Moon Formation

Posted: Mar 4 2018, 4:09pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 4 2018, 4:11pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Propose New Theory of Moon Formation
Credit: Sarah Stewart/UC Davis

According to new theory, moon emerged from a synestia, a giant spinning donut of vaporized rock

A new theory says that the moon emerged from a massive, donut-shaped cloud of vaporized rock called a synestia. The theory attempts to expose the loopholes in prevailing hypothesis that suggests that moon was formed as a result of the collision between early Earth and a Mars-size body called Theia.

"The commonly accepted theory as to how the Moon was formed is that a Mars sized body collided with the proto-Earth and spun material into orbit. That mass settled into a disk and later accreted to form the moon,” said lead researcher Simon Lock from Harvard University. “The body that was left after the impact was the Earth. This has been the canonical model for about 20 years."

The new theory revolves around a new type of planetary object called a synestia. A synestia forms when a collision between planet-sized objects produces a giant, rapidly spinning mass of molten and vaporized rock. As the synestia cooled, it caused rock vapor to condense into liquid and provided “seed” for the moon.

Although new theory also begins with a massive collision, it does not create a disc of rocky material. Instead, it leads to the formation of a synestia. Unlike existing theory, new model does not rely on collision between the right sized objects at a certain angle because it is very difficult to get enough mass into orbit in this manner.

“Our model starts with a collision that forms a synestia,” said Lock. “The moon forms inside the vaporized Earth at temperatures of four to six thousand degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of tens of atmospheres.”

Eventually, the moon would have emerged from the clouds of the synestia. The model also explains why moon lacks volatile elements on its surface. Researchers suggest that the moon inherited its composition from the Earth, but because it formed at high temperatures, it was able to maintain its distinct nature too.

The model appears to address some long-standing questions regarding the creation of the Moon, but researchers believe that more work is needed to refine the model.

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