A new supercomputer simulation suggests the moon may have formed in just hours, not months or years

Shortly: The moon is an integral part of the night sky, but have you ever thought about how it formed? Researchers have been asking this question for decades, and a new simulation adds an interesting twist to the debate.

A leading theory holds that ancient Earth was struck by an object roughly the size of Mars called Theia. Debris from the orbital collision was once thought to have accumulated over months or years to create our satellite.

The new simulations were run at the highest resolution of any simulation used to study the Moon’s origins and suggest the offshoot could have formed within hours of impact. The higher resolution simulations also revealed new behaviors and details that were simply not apparent in the lower resolution models.

Vincent Eke, a Durham University researcher who co-authored the study, said the more we learn about how the moon formed, the more we learn about Earth’s evolution. Samples of moon rock have very similar isotopic signatures to rocks here on Earth, suggesting material that makes up the moon may have formed here.

Theia could also have been isotopically similar to Earth, but that would be an unlikely coincidence. The new simulation provides a plausible explanation for why the isotopic signatures are so similar, and could also explain other quirks like the moon’s tiled orbit and thin crust.

Jacob Kegerreis, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center and lead investigator on the study, said the simulations open up a whole new set of possible starting points for the moon’s evolution. Or it could just be a hollow, man-made structure brought here by someone else for an unknown purpose.

The team’s work was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

NASA said additional analysis of future lunar samples, such as those to be returned from Artemis missions, will help narrow down which theories about the moon’s origin are correct.

Credit: Michele Raffoni

https://www.techspot.com/news/96216-new-supercomputer-simulation-suggests-moon-may-have-formed.html A new supercomputer simulation suggests the moon may have formed in just hours, not months or years

Chris Barrese

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