Moon Gets a New Birthday
Formation happened later than thought, study says
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2014 1:36 AM CDT
The moon is made up of parts of the asteroid and early Earth.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(Newser) – The cataclysmic event that formed the moon happened much later than previously believed, according to researchers who have shifted the satellite's "birthday" forward around 60 million years. New computer simulations and analysis of elements in the Earth's crust suggest that the moon formed 95 million years after the birth of the solar system, when a Mars-sized asteroid smashed into our still-forming planet, sending debris into space that coalesced into the moon, National Geographic reports.

"Earth was put together piece by piece. It didn’t just appear all at once. And the last piece was probably when something the size of Mars—about 10% of Earth’s mass—hit Earth," astrophysicist John Chambers tells Discovery. "Most of that material stayed on Earth, but some of it got blown into space, along with some stuff from Earth, and that then coalesced to form the moon." The findings suggest that Earth wasn't fully formed until 100 million years after the birth of the solar system, while Mars was formed in just a few million years, Reuters notes.

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Apr 4, 2014 10:30 PM CDT
What day of the tear? sure would hate to see the birthday cake.
Apr 3, 2014 3:13 PM CDT
I don't disagree with the "Big Splat" theory, I think it's reasonable and backed up by lots of computer models and the findings of astronauts that brought back moon samples. My question is, if the earth was in a stable orbit for 60 million years then it is violently struck by an object 10% of it's mass at tremendous speed, why is it still in such a near circular orbit? Simple inelastic collision physics suggest the earth should have gone spiraling out dramatically changing orbits. Were we further from the sun and knocked into a new orbit or was the collision grazing and not dead on or what? It just doesn't mesh with my understanding of Newtonian physics.
Apr 3, 2014 9:32 AM CDT
Now imagine there may have been an ocean and some kind of primordial life present before the impact, all boiled up.