Earth’s revolving satellite, the Moon, has long since posed questions as to its origin and formation, but its tilted orbit has caused the most problems until a recent study went to reveal its most probable cause.
The Moon has been a centuries-old object of study for astronomers, scientists and space enthusiasts alike and a newly released study claims to have resolved one its most recent mysteries, its tilted orbit.
The new study was released in the online Nature journal on October 31 and was undertaken by a team of University of California, Davis researchers led by planetary scientist, Sarah Stewart.
Stewart and her team set out to explain the unexpected tilted orbit of the Moon as it failed to be explained by any previous satellite formation theories.
Based on previous research, scientists established that the most probable source of the Moon is our Earth itself.
Gathered data suggested that a space rock believed to be as big as Mars, called Theia, most probably grazed the newly born planet Earth and led to its satellite’s formation as the resulting debris coalesced and formed the Moon.
As most natural elements seemed to be in accordance with this theory, including the difference in size and the respective rotation rates, recent information came to suggest the need for a reworked idea.
Two of the elements that mostly indicated the need for a new theory were the isotope levels of the two space bodies, and the Moon’s tilted orbit.
Planetary bodies are believed to have different isotopic levels, in accordance with their formation location. With computer simulation predicting that almost 80 percent of the Moon’s material should have come from Theia, the similar isotopic level between Earth and its satellite caused contradictions.
The new theory and the current study’s hypothesis is similar to the original, but for one marked difference. According to the new study, the Moon was created after an extremely high-energy level impact, which not only grazed Earth but instead affected it up to its mantle.
It is thought that such an impact would have pulverized Theia and determined a material cloud, composed mostly of Earth rocks, which would have mostly fallen down on the young planet after cooling down.
The remaining elements from both Theia and Earth would have then led to the formation of the moon satellite, which would also explain the isotopic composition.
The extremely high impact could also explain the Moon’s tilted orbit as the space body is thought to have moved up to the point where the Earth-Sun gravitational force was more relevant than the Earth-Moon ones.
This would account for both the Moon’s tilted orbit and the Earth’s upright one, as it helped straighten our planet and the Moon’s movement further away from the planet could explain its current orbit.
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