Get ready to have your ideas about the Moon shattered. Scientists from Harvard University and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have put forth a new model for the Moon’s origin, and it’s mind-bending to say the least. In their explanation, the Moon formed inside the Earth when our planet was what UC Davis described as a synestia – “a seething, spinning cloud of vaporized rock.”
This new model of the Moon’s origins draws on a new kind of planetary object only proposed last year. UC Davis says “A synestia forms when a collision between planet-sized objects results in a rapidly spinning mass of molten and vaporized rock with part of the body in orbit around itself. The whole object puffs out into a giant donut of vaporized rock.”
Related: Everything we thought we knew about the moon’s origins is probably wrong
What does all that have to do with the Moon? Well, the scientists suggest the Moon may have formed from the rock. Synestias aren’t around for very long, lasting maybe only hundreds of years. Scientists think as they emit heat, they shrink quickly, so rock vapor condenses into liquid and eventually collapses into a molten planet, according to UC Davis. Simon Lock of Harvard University, one of the scientists who first proposed the idea of a synestia, said in the statement, “Our model starts with a collision that forms a synestia. The Moon forms inside the vaporized Earth at temperatures of four to six thousand degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of tens of atmospheres.” He said there are several ways for a synestia to form.
The model solves a few issues others have wrestled with in the past. UC Davis professor of Earth and planetary sciences Sarah Stewart said in the statement, “The Moon is chemically almost the same as Earth, but with some differences. This is the first model that can match the pattern of the Moon’s composition.”
The Journal of Geophysical Research — Planets published the work online late February. Scientists from the University of Bristol and the SETI Institute also contributed.
+ University of California, Davis
+ Journal of Geophysical Research — Planets
Images via Sarah Stewart/UC Davis based on NASA rendering and Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash