The Moon would have formed in just a few hours

The Moon would have formed in just a few hours

The full moon rises over Panama City on October 10, 2022. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP

According to the latest NASA study, the Moon would becomposed of about 60% prototerrestrial materials“, compared to 30% of the initial theories.

From the Earth to the Moon there is only one step. A recent study offers new hypotheses about one of the greatest mysteries of our solar system: the origin of the formation of the Moon. According to researchers from NASA and the University of Durham (United Kingdom), the composition of the satellite would be close to that of the Earth. His work has been published in astrophysical journal letters on Tuesday, October 4.

This new hypothesis offers a somewhat different scenario from previous studies. Since the 1970s, there has been a consensus among scientists that the Moon was born 4.5 billion years ago, following an impact between Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet called Theia. . This embryo of a planet would have collided with the Earth, which was then “an ocean of magma“, according to Francis Rocard, planetologist at the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes).

According to the current consensus, our satellite would have been formed from the debris resulting from the collision of the bodies. In orbit around Earth, they would have clumped together over months, even years, to form the Moon. This scenario therefore hypothesizes that the Moon would becomposed essentially of Théia materials“, explains Frédéric Moynier, professor at the University of Paris Cité at the Institut de physique du globe de Paris (IPGP).

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“60% prototerrestrial materials”

However, these theories are not supported by the latest analyzes of lunar samples reported during the Apollo missions. According to scientists, there are similarities between the composition of the satellite and that of the Earth. The latest NASA study published on October 4 confirms these claims.

With the help of “super computerThanks to advanced technology, the researchers were able to establish a new hypothesis, outlined in a video posted on NASA’s Twitter account. The Moon would have formed in a few hours, and would becomposed of about 60% prototerrestrial materials“, compared to 30% of the initial theories.

The video simulation shows that after the impact, a body would have been extracted from the terrestrial material and then moved away. It is this body that will soon become the Moon. This new scenario, if confirmed, is consistent with analyzes showing that “the Moon’s oxygen isotopic composition is the same as that of the Earth“, emphasizes Frédéric Moynier.

Theories to be confirmed

However, the NASA study remains a hypothesis and remains “very theoreticalwarns Frédéric Moynier. “We must give time for experts to discuss and reach a consensus that confirms or criticizes“this scenario, tempers Francis Rocard who assures”that specialists take between four and five years to agree“. In addition, for Frédéric Moynier, certain thermochemical aspects “does not appear. In particular the fact that the Moon is very dry: poor in water and volatile compounds. An important limitation“.

These many questions still pending are “one of the reasons to return to the moon», indicates Frédéric Moynier. Only a small fraction of the satellite’s surface has been exploited by lunar missions. There “hidden face” and the “polesthey have not been explored by humans or robots, recalls Francis Rocard. This is therefore the goal of the Artemis mission, which focuses on the South Pole of the star. Its launch initially planned for the end of August has been postponed to November 14, with two reservation dates, November 16 and 19.

Artemis III’s goal will be to retrieve new lunar samples that can confirm or invalidate recent NASA theories. “The first samples will surely arrive between 2026 and 2027Francisco Rocard says. “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 the histories of other planets altered by similar or very different collisions.”said Vincent Eke, a researcher at Durham University and co-author of the study.

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