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On Forming Our Moon

Two new papers (here and here) have just been released in Science entitled “Making the Moon from a Fast-Spinning Earth: A Giant Impact Followed by Resonant Despinning” and “Forming a Moon with an Earth-Like Composition via a Giant Impact.” For popular science press releases on the story, see New Scientist and Space.com.

As the Space.com report explains,

The moon did indeed coalesce out of tiny bits of pulverized planet blasted into space by a catastrophic collision 4.5 billion years ago, two new studies suggest.

The new research potentially plugs a big hole in the giant impact theory, long the leading explanation for the moon’s formation. Previous versions of the theory held that the moon formed primarily from pieces of a mysterious Mars-size body that slammed into a proto-Earth — but that presented a problem, because scientists know that the moon and Earth are made of the same stuff.

The two studies both explain how Earth and the moon came to be geochemical twins. However, they offer differing versions of the enormous smashup that apparently created Earth’s natural satellite, giving scientists plenty to chew on going forward.

Moreover,

One of the studies — by Matija Cuk of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and Sarah Stewart of Harvard — suggests the answer lies in Earth’s rotation rate. [Video: New Ideas About the Moon-Forming Impact]

If Earth’s day had been just two to three hours long at the time of the impact, Cuk and Stewart calculate, the planet could well have thrown off enough material to form the moon (which is 1.2 percent as massive as Earth).

This rotational speed might sound incredible, and indeed it’s close to the threshold beyond which the planet would begin to fly apart. But researchers say the early solar system was a “shooting gallery” marked by many large impacts, which could have spun planets up to enormous speeds.

Cuk and Stewart’s study, which appears online today (Oct. 17) in the journal Science, also provides a mechanism by which Earth’s rotation rate could have slowed over time.

After the collision, a gravitational interaction between Earth’s orbit around the sun and the moon’s orbit around Earth could have put the brakes on the planet’s super-spin, eventually producing a 24-hour day, the scientists determined.

The presence of our moon (and various specific properties it possesses) is essential for advanced life on earth. Remarkably, the collision between our earth and moon had to be exquisitely finely-tuned in order for advanced life on earth to be possible. Another reminder that we live in a designed universe.

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18 Responses to On Forming Our Moon

  1. I have it on good authority that the moon was formed from cheese.

  2. Don’t over-egg it, Mung. As authorities go, I’m nothing special.

  3. Modern astronomy is a near parallel of Darwinism. As this ideology driven nonsense shows. None of the given ‘explanations’ of our moon are remotely tenable, ‘impact theory’ is left by default from even worse conjectures. Does this not read like the evolutionary ‘just so’ stories we are familiar with?

  4. I like the cheese theory of Moon formation:

    1. It is of a good taste

    2. It may be as probable as any other theory of Moon formation (as butifnot hints)

  5. I love how mainstream science admits problems with leading theories RETROACTIVELY, only when those problems have apparently been solved.

    “The new research potentially plugs a big hole in the giant impact theory, long the leading explanation for the moon’s formation.”

    Oh so there was a big hole in the theory after all?! You admit it now! You never acknowledged it to mainstream audiences before. This big hole was never mentioned in History Channel documentaries etc. before. But now it’s been apparently solved you openly acknowledge that there used to be a big hole in the theory.

    What if it turns out that actually the problem isn’t solved? Will you still acknowledge the big hole?!

    Global warming alarmists do this sort of thing all the time. So too do Darwinists.

  6. To get that rotation the proto-earth would have to have been hit just right, over and over again- think of a basketball spinning on a finger and keeping it going by hitting it on the side in the direction of spin.

    Geez the explanation for our current rotation was the alleged giant impact.

    If the proto-earth was getting hit from all directions, which makes sense given the conditions, then it wouldn’t have any discernable rotation.

  7. Um, our wildly improbable planet and solar system also suggest the work of a Designer, and, as with Biological systems, the Designer apparently used/worked with a number of physical limitations on construction of the Universe.

    I haven’t read the new papers yet, but one of the more interesting observations on the Collision from early in the Summer was that the Mars-size collider sank its ENTIRE iron core into Earth while spashing off perhaps half of Earth’s original crust.

    This is important because:

    1. Earth has much stronger magnetic fields deflecting solar ejections than it should have (if it were Mars).

    2. Earth’s extra thin crust (why does this sound like pizza) allows the continents to Drift. Venus, for example, apparently does not have crustal plates or crustal movement. Probably because Venus’s crust is too thick to allow it.

    We have great big brains and are naturally interested in puzzles. As with the storyline in “2001″, Someone expected us to discover the anomalies and Wonder about them. And as with Biology, we now know that the simple, mechanical explanations of Planetology don’t seem to work. At some point, the least illogical Theory becomes Intelligent Design.

  8. From “The Privileged Planet”:

    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.”

    (bold added)

  9. The purpose of the moon is to reflect the light of the sun.

  10. Quote from crev.info Aug

    “Within much of astronomy these days, what you thought you knew is wrong, and what you think you know now is likely to be proved wrong in the future, but what scientists tell you they know at the moment is a sure thing.”

    Perhaps the reason we can’t figure out how it formed can be found in Genesis 1:14-18.

    “And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

    The moon is the closest object to us in space and we can’t even figure out how it was formed. So why should we believe anything else they tell us about cosmology.

    For instance, take the winding up dilemma. The stars of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, rotate about the galactic center with different speeds, the inner ones rotating faster than the outer ones. The observed rotation speeds are so fast that if our galaxy were more than a few hundred million years old, it would be a featureless disc of stars instead of its present spiral shape. Many ad hoc hypotheses have been set forward to solve this problem but they all fall out of favor after a short time. The current in vogue idea is a complex hypothesis called “density waves,” but it relies on a lot of fine tuning and special pleading.

    Then there is the problem of comets and why they still exist. To support/save their ideas, they imagine an Oort cloud that continually supplies new comets to the solar system. This explains why there are still comets in existence today. This is simply an ad hoc explanation with no real evidence to support it.

    Then there are all the ad hoc explanations attached to the Big Bang to keep it afloat.(inflation, dark energy, dark matter, etc.)

    Cosmology may be even worse than Darwinism with it’s storytelling.

  11. last time I was at the smithsonian, some years ago, there was a cartoon video of the moon, with a wise old voice, telling the story of how it came to be [whatever the latest explanation was at that time]; it made fun of the OLDER theories, which it said were way off any possiblity. Within a week of returning home, I heard a news story that the version the moon had just told me had now been rejected, and they were returning to one of the versions the moon had laughed at the previous week. Wouldn’t be surprised if that video is still playing at the smithsonian.

  12. tjguy @10:

    There are definitely some stories being told in cosmology, but the storytelling can’t match the evolutionary storytelling, either in terms of quantity or in terms of outrageousness.

  13. The bible says the moon was made instantly in a few days time from day one.
    It was not made from chaos of smashupds.
    It was part of a beaitiful ordered universe.
    Later there were smashups.
    They invoke impacts for everything great in the universe and on earth.
    It’s just guessing.
    The author of genesis was a wiotness.

  14. Robert, the Bible says the moon was made. It does not say what process was involved. It does not say how long it took (unless one adopts the highly questionable interpretation that every time “day” shows up in Chapter I of Genesis it refers to one earth rotation).

    We should be open to the truth, wherever it comes from, and it seems to me we should not adopt stances that are overly restrictive, based on questionable readings of texts, which then put us in the unfortunate position of having to choose between a scientific “truth” and a religious “truth.” If it turns out the moon was made over millions of years from an impact, that will not shake my faith at all, as I don’t view Genesis as contradicting that story.

    Sorry for the soapbox. I agree that the scientific story of the moon’s origin is highly questionable and should be openly debated. I just think we need to be careful not to stake out a position based on one line of text that is open to significant interpretation.

  15. It does not say how long it took (unless one adopts the highly questionable interpretation that every time “day” shows up in Chapter I of Genesis it refers to one earth rotation).

    Eric, the earth does not rotate.

    The daylight comes on, then it’s daytime. The daylight goes off and the nightlight comes on, then it’s night.

  16. Eric anderson.
    i know some question what a day is.
    Yet the author of the bible says day and means the reader to understand this.
    This is God and making a dumb moon is no problem. Zap. There it is.
    It’s not more complicated then a virgin birth.

    It’s impossible for their to be scientific evidence of how the moon formed.
    All they can do is look at what’s there and speculate.
    The bible says simply that before the fall the moon was created and this means no impacts and no time is needed.
    A day is said and God created the day.
    It’s not needed to question what a day is.
    Of coarse god didn’t need all the hours of a day.
    it means a unit of time.
    giving long ages is entirely a creation of people.
    Unproven and unlikely as I see it.
    The bigger point is to remember the moon was made in a universe of perfect.
    there was no rocks moving around crashing into things.

  17. Robert:

    Wow – you have almost as many questionable assumptions in there as you have sentences. :)

    We could spend a lot of time on every one, so I doubt we’ll get very far discussing the particulars. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. Again, I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s particular theological views. Just that I don’t share many of them and think we should acknowledge them as such.

  18. Here is some good scientific evidence from Saturn that challenges the billions of years scenario.

    It was written by David Coppedge who was written up here earlier this year because of his lawsuit against JPL Laboratories who fired him for his pro ID views.

    His conclusion in the article is:

    These and other evidences put strong upper limits on the age of the Saturn system. Many of them top out at 100 million years, 10 million years, or less. That does not mean that Saturn is that old—it could be much younger, including the biblical timescale of thousands of years. To illustrate the problem for evolutionists, sometimes at presentations I have an assistant help me stretch out a 45-foot rope in front of the audience. If the rope represents the 4.5 billion year age of the solar system 100 million years is just one foot on that rope. What happened to the other 44 feet on the timeline? Did it even exist?

    http://creation.com/young-saturn

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