New scientific evidence from the Apollo missions could prove that a planet the size of Mars called Theia once collided with Earth and created our moon.
According to Geekosystem.com, lunar samples from Apollo 11, 12, and 16 revealed a 12 parts per million difference in oxygen-17 between moon rocks and Earth rocks. This could prove that some celestial body with a different chemical composition split the moon from the Earth. Scientists believe that the third body is the planet Theia, named after the mother of the moon goddess Selene.
The lunar samples were scanned with a very powerful electron microscope that wasn’t available when the moon and Earth rocks were first obtained. To discern the differences between the compositions of the rocks, triple oxygen isotopes on both samples were compared. The data was analyzed by a team of researchers led by Daniel Herwartz from the University of Cologne. According to the University Herald, Herwartz had this to say about the evidence:
“The differences are small and difficult to detect, but they are there. This means two things; firstly we can now be reasonably sure that the giant collision took place. Secondly, it gives us an idea of the geochemistry of Theia… If this is true, we can now predict the geochemical and isotopic composition of the Moon, because the present Moon is a mixture of Theia and the early Earth. The next goal is to find out how much material of Theia is in the Moon.”
According to The Register, the evidence is congruent with previous theories that Theia had collided with the Earth roughly 4.5 billion years ago when the Earth was formed. Daniel Herwartz was likely excited to find the evidence because he claims the scientific community was beginning to doubt that Theia’s collision with Earth ever happened. He told the BBC:
“It was getting to the stage where some people were suggesting that the collision had not taken place. But we have now discovered small differences between the Earth and the Moon. This confirms the giant impact hypothesis.”
The research has been published in the journal Science and can be read here.
Not all scientists agree that the team’s findings are definitive proof of Theia. Dr. Mahesh Anand from the Open University warned that the conclusion may be premature. “We have to be cautious about the representativeness of these rocks of the entire Moon,” Dr. Anand said, “and so further analysis of a variety of lunar rocks is required for further confirmation.”
The last time The Inquisitr reported on the moon was after a discovery that suggested the moon might not be as old as we thought. The proof of Theia could help to determine with even more accuracy when the moon was formed.
[Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech]