Evidence discovered for epic 4.5-billion year old impact

Evidence discovered for epic 4.5-billion year old impact

Scientists think it's how our moon was created.

A new study has uncovered evidence for an incredibly violent collision that resulted in the formation of the moon 4.5 billion year ago.

Researchers have published a new study in the journal Science that describes evidence from lunar rocks as compared with rocks on Earth that indicates a giant impact that created our moon, according to a Forbes report.

The researchers used rocks brought back from the Apollo 12, 15, and 17 missions to the moon, as well as a meteorite that originated on the moon.

Rocks from the Earth and Moon both have the same oxygen isotopes, indicating that both bodies originated from the same source and that the moon likely formed from a tremendous impact on the Earth.

The going theory is that early Earth collided with another body in our solar system, named Theia, 4.5 billion years ago, resulting in the ejection of a giant chunk of rock that would eventually become our moon.

“We don’t see any difference between the Earth’s and the moon’s oxygen isotopes; they’re indistinguishable,” Edward Young, lead author of the new study and a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry, said in a statement.

“Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the moon, and evenly dispersed between them,” Young said. “This explains why we don’t see a different signature of Theia in the moon versus the Earth.”

As the statement explains: “The key to reconstructing the giant impact was a chemical signature revealed in the rocks’ oxygen atoms. (Oxygen makes up 90 percent of rocks’ volume and 50 percent of their weight.) More than 99.9 percent of Earth’s oxygen is O-16, so called because each atom contains eight protons and eight neutrons. But there also are small quantities of heavier oxygen isotopes: O-17, which have one extra neutron, and O-18, which have two extra neutrons. Earth, Mars and other planetary bodies in our solar system each has a unique ratio of O-17 to O-16 — each one a distinctive ‘fingerprint.'”

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