News / Science & Technology

Apollo Moon Rocks Suggest Other Planet Hit Young Earth

FILE: Scientists are studying the composition of lunar rocks, such as these brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts.
FILE: Scientists are studying the composition of lunar rocks, such as these brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts.
Reuters
Lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts more than 40 years ago contain evidence of a Mars-sized planet that scientists believe crashed into Earth and created the moon, new research shows.
 
German scientists using a new technique said they detected a slight chemical difference between Earth rocks and moon rocks. Scientists said more study would be needed to confirm this long-elusive piece of evidence that material from another body besides Earth contributed to the moon's formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists believe the moon formed from a cloud of debris launched into space after  a Mars-sized body called Theia crashed into the young Earth.
 
Different planets in the solar system have slightly different chemical makeups. Therefore, scientists believed moon rocks might hold telltale chemical fingerprints of whatever body smashed into Earth.
 
Until now, evidence was elusive.
 
"We have developed a technique that guarantees perfect separation" of oxygen isotopes from other trace gases, Daniel Herwartz, with the University of Cologne in Germany, wrote in an email to Reuters.
 
"The differences are small and difficult to detect, but they are there," added Herwartz, lead author of a paper on the discovery published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

A mixed history
 
The results indicate that composition of the moon is about 50 percent Thea and 50 percent Earth, the scientists said. More work is needed to confirm that estimate.
 
The team analyzed rocks brought back to Earth by NASA astronauts during the Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 moon missions in 1969 and 1972.
 
"This work is the first to claim to see such a difference in the isotopes of oxygen," said Robin Canup, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She was not involved in the research.
 
"The reported difference between the Earth and moon is extremely small -- small enough that I think there will be debate as to whether the difference is real or an artifact of how one interprets the data," Canup added.
 
Other teams of scientists have been looking at titanium, silicon, chromium, tungsten and other chemical elements, but so far the lunar samples show no detectable differences from Earth samples.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs