Resolving a decade-old puzzle on strikingly similar surface features of the Earth and the Moon, scientists have proposed that both were formed from materials that were more similar, holding almost indistinguishable isotopic characteristics.
This work also shows that the material that was used to make the Earth was a mass projectile that hit the Earth and most probably led to the formation of the moon, very similar to the Earth at that time. Hence, the Earth and moon are so strikingly similar, they explained.
By analyzing data for certain elements, Dauphas was able to decipher the isotopic nature of the material that formed the Earth. Anomalies in the elements provided “fingerprints” to recreate the formation process, helping to establish “genetic ties” between planetary bodies.
Dauphas said a rare type of extraterrestrial material called ‘enstatite meteorites’ formed half of the first 60% of the Earth and after that, 100% of the rest of the Earth was formed by enstatite-type impactors. “By studying high-precision measurements, we have shown that the Earth, the moon and meteorites with a high concentration of the mineral enstatite have almost indistinguishable isotopic compositions,” he said.
Next, shedding light on the formation of the moon, “is isotopically similar to the Earth,” he said. “The giant impactor that struck the Earth soon after it was created, thereby forming the moon, most likely had a similar isotopic composition to the Earth.”
The study was published in Nature.
Isotopic characteristics of the Earth, moon and meteorites help identify their origins.(Photo
Prof. Nicholas Dauphas)