Supercomputer simulations could help solve mystery behind formation of moon

A group of researchers sought the help of supercomputer simulations to test the formation of the moon. There are various schools of thought regarding the formation of the moon. One theory known as 'the capture theory' suggests that the moon was a small galactic body which was captured by the Earth while passing by it and became tied to it only to revolve around the planet. There is an 'accretion theory' which says the moon was formed alongside Earth. But the most widely supported theory is 'the giant-impact theory' which suggests that the Earth had a collision with another body, roughly of the size of Mars and the collision resulted in the formation of the natural satellite.

 Image credit: NASA

Researchers at Durham University have based their representations on the last theory in order to see what kind of a collision actually led to the formation of the lunar body. The mars-sized planet which had most likely collided with Earth is called Theia and the researchers have tried to control the velocity of Theia, its angle of impact and rotational rate to cause the collision as it might've happened around 4.5 billion years ago.

Astronomers tried colliding a non-spinning version of Theia with Earth but that resulted in a satellite with around 80 percent of the mass of the Moon. Again, when a small amount of spin was added to Theia, a second Moon on orbit around Earth was formed.

As per the press statement, the collisions were resulting in the formation of a small clump that was settling into an orbit around the post-impact earth. Astronomers believe that this clump will grow in size “by sweeping up the disc of debris”. Interesting, this celestial body also contains a small iron core, similar to that of the moon. Also, its outer layer is made from materials found on the ancient earth and Theia.

The researchers are not fully sure that this is how the moon was formed many billion years ago but given the similarities in composition, it looks like a great place to keep exploring.

The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

from Firstpost Tech Latest News