Its nightly changing form high up in the sky often offers romantic lighting and a calming stillness to us mere mortals on Earth.
However, the Moon hasn’t always signified such peace and harmony. Its very birth was the result of a huge collision hitting Earth some 4.5 billion years ago – temporarily reducing Earth to molten debris, with the leftovers forming the moon.
But there’s a slight issue with this theory – it’s always been believed that the impactor hitting Earth (that later went onto form the Moon) was made up of a very different material to Earth.
Therefore, scientists have been somewhat perplexed by Moon rocks that have returned from Apollo missions, as some aspects of geochemistry are a splitting image to that of Earth’s, spinning the original big impact theory slightly off orbit.
So if the Moon wasn’t created from an object far far away, did Earth actually create our mystical night-light?
The big impact theory states that in Earth’s infant days, we only had five-hour days. This is where the theory stumbles, because this would mean that in order for Earth to create the moon, it would have needed to spin twice as fast to gain momentum to spin off enough debris.
Which lead scientists to believe that there may have been a third party involved with the Earth and Moon’s not so romantic courting – the Sun.
What the new theories suggest is that during the Moon’s early days, it may have been under the influence of the Sun’s orbital resonance. This means that when Earth’s tidal movement pushed the Moon away, the sun then pulled it back. It is thought that this could have slowed down Earth’s orbit to the five-hour day scientists have calculated it to originally be spinning.
However until this happened, it’s very likely that Earth would have been spinning fast enough to create the Moon.
While these theories remain inconclusive (and we suspect they will continue to do so beyond our time on Earth), they’ve certainly provided new food for thought for the science world regarding what could be the oldest love triangle!
If the above has left you wondering more about the Moon, watch this two-minute video explaining exactly why the full Moon appears to be larger some nights than others (due to the horizon playing tricks with your perception). Try the thumb test to see if it’s true!