Researchers solve mystery of Moon’s birth

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Moon creation
Researchers believe a Mars-sized planet crashed into a young Earth, splitting off a chunk that eventually formed into our Moon.

For years, planetary scientists have tried to figure out how and when the Moon was formed. According to a new study, it may have been born within 100 million years of the formation of our Solar System, which would explain why it’s made up of Earth-like materials.

Past research has supported the theory that a speeding body named Theia struck Earth in a mega explosion, melting the young planet. As a result, one of the broken pieces left over from the fiery collision ended up forming into the Moon. This theory still leaves several unanswered questions, though, like when exactly would this all have happened?

In order find out, scientists created a computer model of a young Sun surrounded by a “protoplanetary disk” – a ring of cloud, gas, and rocks that circle newly formed stars. They then ran about 250 simulations of the birth of Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Earth from this rich soup of ingredients.

The data revealed that Theia would have needed to crash into Earth when our planet was still young, probably around 95 million years after the Solar System was born. Basically, this means the Moon is likely around 4.47 billion years old! Compared to the rest of the universe, that’s pretty doggone young, though.

Featured image courtesy of 阿爾特斯 on Wikimedia. Image of Earth impact courtesy of Frief on DeviantArt.