New Take On an Ancient Mystery: How Earth Got its Moon

How does our Moon originally come from?

Science & Space

Correction appended Dec. 4, 2013

It’s a general rule in science that the more you know about some aspect of the natural world, the better you understand it. But rules are sometimes broken, and the question of how Earth got its Moon is a very good example of that. Planetary scientists back in the early 1980s concluded that the Moon was born around 4.5 billion years ago, when a Mars-sized object, now deceased, struck Earth a glancing blow at a relatively slow speed, creating a disk of debris that congealed into the familiar, modern Moon. That scenario fit nicely with Earth’s rotation rate and the Moon’s orbit and made particular sense since 4.5 billion years ago, there was a lot more free-flying debris in the solar system than there is today. Plus, says Sarah Stewart, a planetary scientist at Harvard, “It’s something you could explain in a sentence to your…

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