According to new research conducted by experts at the German Aerospace Center, the Moon once had a giant and fiery magma ocean, and it also formed later than analysts previously thought.
Billions of years ago, a protoplanet the size of Mars crashed into the young Earth, and from the debris and cosmic dust, a new rocky object took shape – the Moon. In this new study, the experts reconstructed the timeline of the satellite’s formation. While it was previously believed that this Moon-forming clash took place about 4.51 billion years ago, the new research estimated the Moon’s formation at only 4.425 billion years ago.
Matching the Formation of Earth’s Metallic Core
To discover this 85-million-year error in the object’s age, the team of scientists used mathematical models to estimate the composition of the Moon throughout time. Starting with the idea that the satellite was host to a gigantic magma ocean, the team measured how the minerals that took shape as the magma cooled changed with time.
In accordance with the timeline of the magma ocean, researchers could trace their way back to the Moon’s formation.
“By comparing the measured composition of the moon’s rocks with the predicted composition of the magma ocean from our model, we were able to trace the evolution of the ocean back to its starting point, the time at which the moon was formed,” study co-author Sabrina Schwinger, a researcher at the German Aerospace Center, said in a statement.
These discoveries, which demonstrate that the Moon formed some 4.425 billion years ago, match with previous research that suggested the satellite’s formation took place at the same time as the formation of Earth’s metallic core.
“This is the first time that the age of the moon can be directly linked to an event that occurred at the very end of the Earth’s formation, namely the formation of the core,” Thorsten Kleine, a professor at the Institute of Planetology at the University of Münster in Germany, said in the same statement.
The details were described in a new study published this month in the journal Science Advances.