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New Theory on Moon's Formation

Wed, 2016/09/14 - 9:45am -- shawn
Moon/Earth Collision Illustration

 

The research group of Prof. Stein Jacobsen at Harvard has measured the isotopic composition of potassium in lunar samples an order of magnitude more precisely than previous measurements (Humayun & Clayton, 1995) and they found a small enrichment in the heavy isotope of potassium in lunar rocks. They claim that this is evidence of an extremely violent formation of the Moon. This is an intriguing result which requires that the Moon must have formed from molten, partially vaporized rocky material from the Earth’s mantle, while the Earth’s mantle must have been completely vaporized. This is a far more extreme scenario than previous physical models of the Giant Impact formation theory. FSU’s Prof. Humayun cautions that the samples used were not sufficiently representative of the lunar composition to be absolutely sure that the small enrichment is really intrinsic to the Moon. In an interview with The Verge, he explains the implications of the new study and its limitations, both of which are exciting. Link to the interview: http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/12/12879766/moon-planetary-collision-theory-earth-impact.  (Illustration from The Verge)