Secrets Behind Water on the Moon Revealed in Lunar Creation Simulation

Monday, 12 March 2018 - 10:42AM
Earth
Space
Monday, 12 March 2018 - 10:42AM
Secrets Behind Water on the Moon Revealed in Lunar Creation Simulation
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Image credit: YouTube
For as long as mankind has stared up at the night's sky, one object has held our fascination more than any other.

The Earth's moon is a special creation, and as we've studied it and learned more about its unique attributes, it's become increasingly clear that in all of known space, there are very few, if any, moons quite like our own.

First, the moon is far bigger than it ought to be, considering the size of our own planet. Moons that orbit Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and other planets in our solar system, tend to be a lot smaller relative to the planet they orbit. This size has been important for the development of life on Earth, as the moon's larger mass helps shelter us from dangerous asteroids—hence why the moon is covered in craters.

One of the more interesting new discoveries concerning the moon is the fact that the lunar body has potentially very large reserves of water lying upon its surface. Scientists have theorized about how that water might have arrived there, especially considering the prevailing theory that the moon was created when a large meteor, the size of Mars, collided with the Earth.

Now, a new study has hoped to investigate the connection between the moon's origin and the presence of water on the lunar surface. Scientists from the Carnegie Institute for Science and the California Institute of Technology have created a simulation that shows how the Earth might have been affected if it were hit by a large meteor while it was still forming, during a period where it was flexible enough to see matter split off and merge back into its mass.

The simulation is utterly fascinating to watch and shows how it is entirely possible that the moon could be made of Earth material, and therefore contain water.




The issue here comes from trying to figure out when exactly in the formation of the Earth the moon would have split off. Too early in the planet's creation, and the hydrogen on Earth would have vaporized into space, leaving the moon bereft of the building block needed for water. Too late in the process, and the hydrogen would have been cool, and wouldn't oxidize to create water on the moon's surface.

According to Miki Nakajima, one of the scientists to created the computer model:

Opening quote
"The good news is that our models show that observations of a wet moon are not incompatible with a giant impact origin. This is still very much an area of active research…figuring out about how much water exists in the Moon. This is a highly important and challenging question to answer given that we have limited knowledge on the history and distribution of lunar water."
Closing quote


Potentially, if we're able to figure out exactly how much water exists on the moon, we'll be able to better determine the process and the time period that led to the creation of the biggest light in the night's sky.

We're a long way from working out the details, but this new study at least proves that we might be thinking along the right lines with our current explanation of how the moon came to be.
Science
Moon
Earth
Space
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