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New computer simulation of theorized impact that created the Moon

The uncertainty of science: Before I even begin to describe this story, I must emphasize that it is pure science fiction. As much as it is founded on known data, that data is simply not sufficient to tell us exactly how the Moon was created. The data merely points to many hundreds of possibilities, of which the model below is simply one:

Computer programmers using a supercomputer at a United Kingdom university have created a new simulation of the theorized impact of a Mars-sized body to the Earth that some believe created the Moon, and determined it was possible for that impact to have created the Moon quickly, within hours.

You can read the research paper here.

The fun part of this story is to watch the video of this simulation, which I have embedded below. Whether it describes what actually happened is pure speculation, and in fact cannot be confirmed in any way at all.

It is intriguing, nonetheless.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • James Street

    Years ago I bought the book “Moon Rocks” by Henry S.F. Cooper off a used book table that gives an account of the Apollo moon rocks. It’s written at the middle school level. It said there were two opposing groups of scientists, as I recall one group thought the moon formed from a strike from a large object and the other that it formed independently at the same time as the earth. Both groups became so hostile towards the other that they wouldn’t talk to the other group. Once while one group was meeting someone from the other group opened the door of the room, yelled that his group was right and slammed the door. Even after the moon rocks were studied on earth each group still thought they were right.

  • Ever since the Large Impactor theory gained notice, I’ve though it a good thing the impactor hit a glancing blow, as a more direct hit might well have turned proto-Earth into an asteroid belt. Curious if anyone has looked at what the maximum strike angle, impactor mass, and speed of impact would be for a planet to re-form. And what happens if two bodies come really close to each other, but don’t physically interact. I imagine there is a minimum distance for this. Do both bodies get rings from material pulled from the respective surfaces?

  • Chris

    Are there any examples of “planet twins” or planets with very large single moons in the same orbit in the new exoplanet.groups? Perhaps this is a very rare and unstable occurrence.

  • David Telford

    Chris, would Pluto/Charon count? Not exactly exo but it is an example of a moon relatively large to the primary body. Might be the same mechanism at play.

    Somewhere in the past I read the impactor body probably formed in the same orbit, at one of the trojan points, 60˚ forward or behind the primary (early earth). Stable enough to form up a large body, but unstable in the long run. It gets loose, and being in the same orbit around the sun, they’re gonna meet.

    To my amateur mind, it suggests this mechanism might not be so rare. Maybe most such collisions don’t result in large moons, but a notable fraction do?

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