Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

It turns out the Earth is actually made up of two planets

crash.jpg

"Violent, head-on collisions" aren't usually conducive to forming new life, but ending it abruptly. Yet it turns out that an impact of world-changing proportions were crucial to the formation of the Earth as we know it.

Astronomers have long suspected that the Earth and our Moon came into formation in the superbly named event, the giant impact hypothesis: a planetary embryo called Theia, roughly the size of Mars, collided with a (relatively) young Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. By clipping the 100-million-year-old Earth, Theia would have formed debris that eventually clumped together to form the Moon.

Now, a new study by a team at UCLA has found evidence that this collision was far more violent than any previously theorised. 

Published in the journal Science, the team of geochemists and cosmochemists studied a number of Moon rocks collected by three of NASA's Apollo missions. The structure of the rocks was compared with volcanic rocks found in Hawaii and Arizona - which led to a surprising discovery.

"We don’t see any difference between the Earth’s and the Moon’s oxygen isotopes; they’re indistinguishable," said lead author Edward Young. "Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the Moon, and evenly dispersed between them. This explains why we don’t see a different signature of Theia in the Moon versus the Earth."

Rather than becoming a distinct planet in its own right, Theia was destroyed entirely in this head-on collision, helping to form the Earth and Moon.

We owe you big time, Theia. 

(Image: NASA)

[Via: The Independent]

Related

starwars.jpg

Star Wars Episode IX could be filmed in actual space

2.jpg

Leading astronomer believes alien babies will replace us all by 2100

shutterstock_95167171.jpg

Russia has plans to stop Earth-bound asteroids with nukes

Comments

More

Super Mario in Grand Theft Auto is weird and awesome

Who would've thought Mario would get into a knife fight in a park?

by Jamie Carson
18 Jan 2017

The only Vines worth preserving

The most important cultural artefacts of our time

by Tristan Cross
17 Jan 2017

Hurrah: The Nintendo Switch now has a price and release date

Here's everything you need to know about the new console

by Tom Fordy
13 Jan 2017

The best underwater photographs of 2016 are staggeringly beautiful

Aquatic snaps that made a splash

by Dave Fawbert
12 Jan 2017

Using Google Maps actually does ruin your sense of direction

"Make a U-turn where possible"

by Dave Fawbert
11 Jan 2017

Netflix releases 8-bit game featuring Narcos and Stranger Things

Goodbye, productivity.

by Emily Badiozzaman
10 Jan 2017

The original Game Boy is coming back

Time to dust off your Pokemon Red & Blue cartridges

by Jamie Carson
10 Jan 2017

Watch Steve Jobs launch first iPhone 10 years ago

Today marks 10 years since Steve Jobs presented the world with this iconic product, but it could have been so different

09 Jan 2017

The best gadgets to launch at the biggest tech conference in the world

Christmas 2017 can't come early enough

by Joe Ellison
05 Jan 2017

This is why hitting the snooze button is bad for your health

If you snooze, you really do lose

03 Jan 2017