The moon would have actually formed in a few hours!
Since the 1970s, astronomers believed that the moon was the result of the collision between the earth and a protoplanet called Theia. It was considered to have formed from debris from this impact over millions of years. However, a recent study suggests that this phenomenon took place in just a few hours.
The study authors looked at different scenarios for how the moon formed after the collision. That said, they designed a computer program called SWIFT. His goal is to simulate the evolution of gravitational and hydrodynamic forces which act on large quantities of matter.
So they used a powerful computer called COSMA or “cosmological machine” to simulate the Earth-Theia collision from different angles. To obtain reliable results, they carried out the work at a higher resolution than ever.
They reproduced the collision thanks to a high-definition simulation
Indeed, if the standard simulation is between 100,000 and 1 million particles, these researchers were able to model up to 100 million particles.
“Using too low a resolution in a simulation can give you misleading or even just plain wrong answers.”
Kegerreis. Computational Cosmologist at Durham University
The results showed the moon formed within hours from the pieces of Earth and Theia. This new theory seems to be a consistent response to known current properties of the Moon, such as its wide, angled orbit, melted interior, and thin crust.
The composition of the moon could dispel the mystery of its formation
The first clues to the formation of the moon come from the mission Apollo 11 when the astronauts brought back moon rocks and dust on earth. These samples date from 4.5 billion years oldand situate the formation of the moon in a period of turbulence.
According to the classical hypothesis, we consider that Theia has strewn to pieces after its collision with Earth. Its remnants, along with vaporized rocks and gas from Earth’s mantle, coalesced over millions of years to form the moon. But if we consider that the moon consists only of Theia, then why terrestrial and lunar rocks presentso many similarities?
Other scientists suggest that the amount of rocks vaporized from the earth have been more important than the remains of Theia during the creation of the moon. On the other hand, other models suggest that a moon composed mainly of terrestrial rock would have a completely different orbit.
Obviously, the researchers need more information to be able to decide. Moreover, examining the samples of rocks and dust in the depths of the moon is part of the goals of the future NASA mission named Artemis.
“Even more samples from the Moon’s surface could be extremely useful in making new, more certain discoveries about the composition and evolution of the Moon, which we can then trace in model simulations like ours.”