Alien Remnants on Moon Provide Proof of Its Violent Origin

By Bill Andrews | June 5, 2014 1:03 pm
moon_formation

An artist’s rendering shows a planetary collision near the star Vega. The moon may have formed from the debris of such an impact between Earth and a Mars-sized body. Credit: NASA

Despite sometimes studying objects literally trillions of miles away, astronomers still have plenty of unanswered questions about the moon, which is basically right there. Even as basic a question as where it came from remains unclear, though a well-explored theory suggests that it arose from a colossal collision deep in Earth’s past.

A new study this week finally has some proof to back that up: Researchers have detected rubble from a foreign body in the moon’s makeup.

Moon’s Origin

The current thinking is that a nascent, proto-Earth was going along its merry way when a Mars-sized object, dubbed Theia, smashed into it. The debris from this crash eventually coalesced into the familiar moon. This is called the giant impact hypothesis. Numerically, the hypothesis makes sense and also explains a lot of our satellite’s features and characteristics.

But when experimentalists wanted to prove this, they came up short. Most large bodies in the solar system have different amounts of chemical isotopes; it would follow that Earth and Theia did, too. The moon, as a mixture of the two (likely about 70-90 percent Theia to 10-30 percent proto-Earth), should also have different isotope figures than Earth. Unfortunately, that’s not what the experiments showed: Effectively, the two worlds had identical isotope levels. And that left scientists scratching their heads.

Theia’s Fingerprint

Now, a team of German scientists have taken another crack at the problem, applying new, more sensitive analysis techniques to existing lunar samples. (They initially used lunar meteorites, but when those proved too tainted by Earth’s chemical influence to be useful, they went right to the source, analyzing samples brought back from the Apollo 11, 12 and 16 missions.) They found that, in fact, Earth rocks and moon rocks are fundamentally different when it comes to isotopes of oxygen, differing by about 12 ± 3 parts per million.

That might not seem like a huge difference, but it’s more than enough. As the authors put it in their paper in this week’s Science:

This unequivocally identifies an isotopic difference between Earth and the Moon, and supports the view that the Moon formed by a giant collision of the proto-Earth with Theia.

Of course, it’s a relief that the prevailing theory for the moon’s formation might actually be right. But the results are also important for what they have to say about the composition of Theia in the first place. They indicate that Theia was likely a rare kind of meteorite known as an enstatite chondrite. Which, in turn, tells us more about the moon we see, so tantalizingly clearly, in our skies.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: moon
  • Carlos Caramujo

    Read Sitchin

    • Astrodwarf

      Wrong type of alien, I’m afraid…

  • FallenProphet

    Sweeping statement, all from a piece of meteoric stone found on the moons surface ? Icemoon theory still has more credence than explosive impact.

    • Michael Manning

      Ice moon? It was obviously impact, the isotopes say so.

      • FallenProphet

        No they say almost the same. The person that invented the test used, said as much today, thanks.

        • Michael Manning

          They are for all extents and purposes identical, as we would expect if they were made of the same stuff billions of years ago, within 4 parts per million. It’s done. Unless you have a better explanation personally I would say it is obviously impact debris coalesced into a moon.

          • FallenProphet

            Not disputing that the moon and our Earth are very closely related. The hypothesis is wrong. Here…May 26 2011-Erik H. Hauri, Thomas Weinreich, Alberto E, Malcolm C Rutherford, James A Van Orman.- In other words, we’re seeing — at least in this chunk of volcanic glass — something that looks very similar to what we’d expect on Earth. This could change our understanding of how the Moon was formed. Generally it’s believed that the Moon broke off from Earth when our planet was hit by a Mars-sized body. But an impact like that wouldn’t have left much water behind. Is it possible the Moon was formed in some other way? That’s a subject for further research, but the research team notes two possibilities: one, at some point Earth and the Moon may have shared the same “atmospheric envelope”.

          • Philip Bruce Heywood

            Almost unbelievable, the whole saga. It was solved back in the APOLLO days. Wasn’t even aliens. Pity, because it’s such a perennial non-event, anything to break the monotony would be good. Someone must think they need a job, so they keep digging it up. You have two objects which can be partially sampled. Existing samples go close to proving common origin for sampled parts of both. One is a planet with a full fledged iron core: the other is a planet formed largely from the stony mantle of other planet(s). THEREFORE: Look for planet(s) missing stony mantle, in case they are a possible donor. Asteroids lack necessary volume: Mercury, lacking approx. 1/2 its mantle, (S.R. Taylor, 1999, referenced in my paper) had both potential volume and now has exceptional orbital inclination. . Earth possesses neither of these necessary features. Could Mercury or some lost planet(s) have been stripped to provide lunar material and also material which fell to Earth? This would explain the chemical similarity. (The moon of course could have been formed close to Mercury early on, and subsequently been captured by Earth.)
            The chemistry fits this hypothesis. The mechanics can fit this hypothesis. Everything fits this hypothesis. An infant can see as much. These German analytic results yet again certify this hypothesis, at least in principle. Enstatite Chondrites, eh? Guess where they are thought most likely to have originated? Either Mercury, or perhaps even closer to the centre. Sherlock Holmes you don’t need to be. Please consult Common Donor Lunar Origin on GOOGLE, for the (painfully obvious) chemistry/confirmation.

          • FallenProphet

            I like this hypothesis, most things fit. I’m more concerned as to where the reported water sources would fit with such an inner system planetary accretion. This and the fact Earth acquired its water very early in its history, almost certainly point to a travelling body, accumulating material from a wide range of solar area’s. The majority of this material being snow/ice water and mud. You have to think of things as they would be, very very early in the solar systems life. Things where very different and not at all as they are today. The Sun and its planets have had over 4 billion years to cool and slow in the vastness of space.

          • Philip Bruce Heywood

            Water etc. is a problem if we assume the sun was at its present location and ‘ignited’ before the planets formed. An ignited star drives volatiles away– they say.
            Laplace/a single, uniform ‘nebula’, however not only are no longer necessary — it is not a possibility, based on the space probe results. The relationship between the sun and the formative planets as we see it all, now, need not have been precisely the same back early.

          • FallenProphet

            Agreed, but given the solid evidence of a hotter Earth and very early mineral deposits requiring liquid water. All in the presence of a young and energetic, ignited star. A liquid encounter is more probable than an explosive “impact”.

          • Michael Manning

            How do we know for sure how much water was present on Earth at the time? Maybe this was a massive icy body full of water? How do we know for sure the impact would have left no water behind?

          • FallenProphet

            The hypothesis as it stands leaves little in the way of variables for water to remain after the Theia collision. If most of the crust is lost in the collision any water present would stand even less chance. The evidence for water on the moon and within it, is now becoming all too clear. The theory of massive fiery collision does not fit the evidence.

          • Michael Manning

            Water on the moon could quite simply have happened the same way water on the Earth happened. The solar system at that time was a constant bombardment of material, as evidenced by the moons surface.

    • John Hunter

      What part of “…a well-explored theory suggests that it arose from a colossal collision deep in Earth’s past.” did you miss? A majority consensus among astronomers supports this view. But then, you’re no expert, are you?

      • FallenProphet

        We disagree it is, “well explored”, nice sound bite though.

  • Nate

    Correct me if I am wrong (which I am sure you will all do) but haven’t they proven that isotopes act differently in a vacuum? So to me saying that this confirms the theory seems contradictory. The moon is under constant vacuum and has been since it’s creation so even if it was made from earth it would show a difference in the isotopes because it has no atmosphere… I’m not disputing the theory of the impact – but the ‘confirmation’ seems like it is really clutching at straws.

    • Philip Bruce Heywood

      I don’t know whether vacuum could possibly affect any type of isotope. Not all isotopes are of exactly the same type. Some isotopes are stable over time, others decay or change. The isotopes they are talking about here are observed to be remarkably stable under all conditions likely to have been encountered. Since we are dealing with the subatomic, vacuum presumably has no effect. The inside of an atom is a …… well, is it a vacuum?

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  • Rich The Bluegeek

    “Proof” would appear to be a bit of a stretch in this instance. More like evidence to support a hypothesis that may or may not be correct.

  • Lizmay

    Sitchen wrote about this very thing years ago.

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