Secrets of the Moon
Reported August 2010
BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- On a clear night you can see the moon easily. It's the brightest object in the sky. But do you ever wonder how it got there? Now for the first time, we're getting a better glimpse on what happened four and a half billion years ago. Here is the secret behind how the moon was made.
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Everybody has seen this. We know how we got there, but how did the moon get there? However you think it happened … now, for the first time, astrophysicists have evidence for the collision that made our moon.
"Something very unusual happened to form our moon,” Carey Lisse, Ph.D., an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, Md., told Ivanhoe.
Using information from NASA's Spitzer space telescope, scientists can say that an object in space the size of mars, traveling about 22,000 miles per hour, collided with earth and formed the moon.
"Most of that body incorporated and merged with the earth and became present day earth, but about 10 or 20 percent of it kind of shimmed off and became a torus or a doughnut of molten gas and vaporized rock that eventually coalesced and reformed into the moon orbiting around the earth,” Dr. Lisse explained.
The telescope has a spectrograph, which uses infrared light to identify the chemicals floating in space. The result: these leftover chemicals are evidence of high speed collisions, proving that if it happened in nearby growing solar systems, it probably happened here.
"We can learn from looking at a lot of these other stars, how we formed,” Dr. Lisse said.
The right answer we can now prove.
Scientists say collisions in the early years of our solar system may also have tipped Uranus on its side, sheared layers of rock off the surface of Mercury, caused Venus to spin backward, and wiped out the craters on half of Mars.
The American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
Dr. Richard Tresch Fienberg
American Astronomical Society
Washington, DC 20009-1231
(202) 328-2010 x116
James Riordon, Media Relations
American Physical Society
College Park, MD
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Secrets of the Moon
On a clear night, you can see the moon easily. It's the brightest object in the sky. But ever wonder how it got there? Now, for the first time, we're getting a better glimpse on what happened 4.5 billion years ago.