The chemical traces of the lunar rocks show that the moon formed in the first 50 million years of the solar system’s existence.
According to the Big Bang cosmological theory, the strongest hypothesis for now, the moon formed from the fused fragments of the planet Theia, which collided with Earth in the early stages of its existence. Scientists believe the event took place between 200 and 300 million years after the formation of the Solar System. However, the authors of a new study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, say that this occurred even earlier during the first 50 million years of the Solar System’s existence.
Lunar silicates, which were brought to Earth by NASA’s Apollo mission, contain elements of hafnium (Hf) and tungsten (W). Experts have concluded that the proportion of these elements in lunar silicates differs from those in our planet. In addition, the transformation of the wolfram isotope 182H to 182W should be fully completed within the first 60 million years of the solar system’s life.
This information means that any very large impact had to occur before that date, which answers the much-debated question among the scientific community as to when the moon was formed, explained Dr. Carsten Munker, one of the study’s authors.
Therefore, the lunar rocks had to begin to solidify before our system reached 50 million years.
Because the formation of the moon was the last major planetary event after the formation of the earth, the age of the moon also gives us the minimum age of the earth, explained Dr. Maxwell Thiemens of the University of Cologne.
Studying the age of the moon – the solar body whose formation probably made life possible – is of crucial importance in understanding the past of our planet, scientists say. What the bigger relevance of this discovery is remains to be seen for now.