NASA MRO captures incredible picture of Earth and Moon from Mars

Jan 10, 2017, 00:39
NASA MRO captures incredible picture of Earth and Moon from Mars

The average distance between moon and earth is approximately 30 times Earth's diameter.

This chain of impacts appears to agree with our understanding of early-Earth formation models and doesn't assume that it was just one cataclysmic impact that formed a single moon.

In the image, the Earth and moon appear to be closer than they actually are. "It's likely that such moonlets were later ejected, or collided with the Earth or with each other to form bigger moons". Rufu points out that her research relies on the knowledge gleaned from the impact simulations that were developed to test the giant-impact model.

As an aside, our Moon is the fifth largest moon in the Solar System, but it's the largest moon relative to its host planet's size - excluding Pluto and Charon, because as we all know Pluto isn't really a planet (sorry, Pluto!). Another theory suggested the moon was born from the same primordial dust that made the Earth and other objects in the solar system. To check the conditions for the formation of such mini-moons or moonlets the researchers ran 800 simulations of impacts with the Earth.

And when these collisions were nearly head-on, they produces debris discs of debris, many of which were composed of mostly Earth - not impacting planetoid - material. If the impactor were composed of different stuff than Earth, the moon would not be so Earth-like in composition.

The researchers conducted almost 1,000 computer simulations and estimate about 20 impacts could do the job. "A previously formed moon could therefore have already exist when another moon-forming giant impact occurs".

The most widely accepted theory about how the Moon formed has been challenged, with scientists saying a series of large impacts - rather than one giant collision - created our natural satellite. "The Moon becomes a blend of multiple compositional signatures, rather than two, and so the effect of each impactor on bulk composition is reduced", he wrote in a related News & Views article.

"We believe the Earth had many previous moons". The results showed that such impacts could produce debris fields that in turn fuse into tiny "moonlets", objects no more than ten percent the mass of the Moon. Rufu says further study is needed to explore that process. "This paper is first to provide extensive calculations that we hope will stimulate others to reexamine the issue". One of Rufu's collaborators, physicist Hagai Perets of the Technion ― Israel Institute of Technology, is already working to find out the efficiency of moonlet mergers.

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