Archive for Thursday, August 4, 2011

Two moons? It’s not lunacy, but new theory

August 4, 2011


— In a spectacle that might have beguiled poets, lovers and songwriters if only they had been around to see it, Earth once had two moons, astronomers now think. But the smaller one smashed into the other in what is being called the “big splat.”

The result: Our planet was left with a single bulked-up and ever-so-slightly lopsided moon.

The astronomers came up with the scenario to explain why the moon’s far side is so much more hilly than the one that is always facing Earth.

The theory, outlined Wednesday in the journal Nature, comes complete with computer model runs showing how it might have happened and an illustration that looks like the bigger moon getting a pie in the face.

Outside experts said the idea makes sense, but they aren’t completely sold yet.

This all supposedly happened about 4.4 billion years ago, long before there was any life on Earth to gaze up and see the strange sight of dual moons. The moons themselves were young, formed about 100 million years earlier when a giant planet smashed into Earth. They both orbited Earth and sort of rose in the sky together, the smaller one trailing a few steps behind like a little sister in tow.

The smaller one was a planetary lightweight. The other was three times wider and 25 times heavier, its gravity so strong that the smaller one just couldn’t resist, even though it was parked a good bit away.

“They’re destined to collide. There’s no way out. ... This big splat is a low-velocity collision,” said study co-author Erik Asphaug, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

What Asphaug calls a slow crash is relative: It happened at more than 5,000 mph, but that’s about as slow as possible when you are talking planetary smashups. It’s slow enough that the rocks didn’t melt.

And because the smaller moon was more than 600 miles wide, the crash took a while to finish even at 5,000 mph. Asphaug likened the smaller moon to a rifle bullet and said, “People would be bored looking at it because it’s taking 10 minutes just for the bullet to bury itself in the moon. This is an event if you were looking at, you’d need a big bag of popcorn.”

The rocks and crust from the smaller moon would have spread over and around the bigger moon without creating a crater, as a faster crash would have done.

“The physics is really surprisingly similar to a pie in the face,” Asphaug said.

And about a day later, everything was settled and the near and far sides of the moon looked different, Asphaug said.

Co-author Martin Jutzi of the University of Bern in Switzerland said the study was an attempt to explain the odd crust and mountainous terrain of the moon’s far side. Asphaug noticed it looked as if something had been added to the surface, so the duo started running computer simulations of cosmic crashes.

Earth had always been an oddball in the solar system as the only planet with a single moon. While Venus and Mercury have no moons, Mars has two, while Saturn and Jupiter have more than 60 each. Even tiny Pluto, which was demoted to dwarf status, has four moons.


gr 6 years, 3 months ago

Is this one of them thar FACTS, or just an idea?

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 3 months ago

The bible don't mention no 3 lights in the sky, so your theory isn't even possible, Mr. science guy. And 4.4 billion years ago, really? God wasn't even a twinkle in man's eye yet.

Getaroom 6 years, 3 months ago

It is reported that Creationists "around" the Flat Universes are furious and squirming in their amniotic sacks knowing it is a lie from SATAN, "there could never have been 2 Moons" they scream! Most are not focusing on how moons there might have been but are waiting for the any-moment now Rapture, or is that the Rupture? Stay tuned.... sturdy umbrellas at the ready. One splinter group of The Creationist Movement is reported to have collectivley said, "it is all the Muslim Socialist Obama's fault" but that has yet to be substantiated or confirmed by The Worldwide Murdock FOX Hackers Network. Tune in for an update from: The Prison Broadcast Network(TPBN). No public funds were harmed in the formation of this network. Fully funded by legislative action through the Koch brothers. Now for the real headline: On one dark and empty atmospheric "night", approximately 4.4 billion years ago, having just created the Earth, GOD(he/she/it), or better known as (HSI) awakened to darkness late mid-day on the 8th day, because who could sleep on the night of the 7th with all that commotion and HSI was so lonely that HSI set about to create an only begotten Sun out of the dust of the gone-too-soon smashed Baby Moon(BM). HSI had not yet created fault/sin so it was no ones fault/sin Baby Moon had cratered) So, HSI gathered up dead BM's remains and scattered them throughout the heaven's so that the dark empty sky would sparkle with BM and that BM might never be forgotten(OH! you mean there is more than one HEAVEN too!? - Lions and Tigers and Bears!!) Are The Heavens Flat too and how many of them are there? Are Baby Moon's initials the etiology of ..... never mind that for now naughty children, let's get back to the factuals as there are and were. Never question the WORD now drink the cool aide, use the TEA BAGS!!! "but teacher the sky is falling"! No, it is just "The Debt Ceiling" the sky is fine because HSI created that. Back to The WORD now.....

Ahhum! And children - that is how the stars were created........ next week we will cause you to understand, I mean; investigate how Apes were created out of those tiny stick-in-your-throat-ribs of fish and how fish were taught to walk on the moon after landing on it in what we now call a "shuttle". One small step for a minnow and one giant step for ... well let's say, all aquatic life forms..............and that children is how we came to know "the sign of the fish". Sorry to all the vegetarians. You are welcome to substitute the sign of The Corn without sin. In a future lesson we will look into how HSI created the human form from corn. Everyone happy now? OK for those of you who simply must know we will make it clear later on which came first, the chicken or the egg and Democrats or Republicans. All will be revealed come The Rupture!

Is that thar Kozmology jist uh iDeea - or is it al faksul?

Ewok79 6 years, 3 months ago

ZZZZZZ........zzzzzzz Huh? What is story time over??

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

Except for the fact that there really is no permanently "dark side" of the moon, that's a perfectly plausible theory.

The side facing away from the Earth gets just as much sunlight as the side facing us. We just can't see it from here.

verity 6 years, 3 months ago

It sounds so reasonable that I wonder why no one thought of it sooner. I think two moons seems like exactly the right amount of moons to have. Two suns---that would be a little freaky---and way too hot.

somedude20 6 years, 3 months ago

I rather enjoy looking at the two moons in the (Christina) Hendricks galaxy. I would like to visit those orbs and do some up close tests and experiments but i know that will not happen so I must gaze from afar and study them intently.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 3 months ago

Wonder how the intelligent designer got one of the moons to bang into the other one?

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