Carbon emissions from the moon prompt scientists to question the theory that our dusty rock formed during a collision between Earth and the “wandering planet” Theia.
Readings from a Japanese spacecraft have found traces of carbon and volatile water in lunar gases, which show that the moon emits carbon ions from its surface.
This amount of carbon should have been completely vaporized by the intense temperatures generated by the colossal impact event.
But the results suggest that carbon has been present since the moon formed 4.5 billion years ago, which means that “impact theory” may need to be reconsidered.
The researchers’ illustration shows that carbon emissions were distributed over almost the entire lunar surface. This suggests that carbon was incorporated into its formation and was not transported there by solar winds or meteorites
“These emissions were distributed over almost the entire lunar surface, but the quantities differed according to the lunar geographic zones”, explain the researchers in Scientists progress.
“Our estimates demonstrate that native carbon exists over the entire moon, supporting the hypothesis of a carbon-containing moon, where carbon was incorporated into its formation and / or was transported billions of years ago. “
The results come from the SELENE spacecraft of the Japanese aerospace exploration agency, nicknamed Kaguya, which operated around the Moon from 2007 to 2009.
The observations of the lunar orbiter are always interpreted by scientists to provide research results.
One of Kaguya’s instruments was an ion mass spectrometer, which found fluxes in carbon ions that were too large to be transported by the solar wind or tiny meteoroids called “micrometeoroids,” the researchers said.
The abundance of carbon embedded on the entire lunar surface would have been completely vaporized by the intense temperatures generated by the event of intense impact between the Earth and the “wandering planet” Theia
Carbon is a volatile element which has a considerable influence on the formation and evolution of planetary bodies.
WHAT IS THEIA?
About 4.5 billion years ago, during the first 150 years of the solar system, Earth was touched by a planet the size of Mars.
The main theories suggest that this led to the creation of the Moon and that Theia may have merged with Earth.
Theia takes its name from the mythical Greek Titan who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the Moon.
The protoplanet can come from the external solar system before colliding with the very young Earth.
For decades, it was believed that carbon and other volatiles were depleted in the moon due to the first analyzes of samples from the famous U.S. Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s.
One of the greatest driving forces behind the giant impact hypothesis, also known as the “Big Splash”, is a volatile, depleted, carbon-free moon.
The event – about 4.45 billion years ago and 150 million years after the formation of the solar system – is the most common idea to explain both the formation of the Earth and our relatively moon large compared to other rocky planets.
The impact of the small planet Theia, which was approximately 3,792 miles in diameter compared to 7,917 terrestrial miles, created a ring of debris around our home planet which finally gathered to form the moon.
This artist’s concept shows a celestial body the size of our moon slamming into a body the size of Mercury in a scenario that could be similar to Theia’s collision with Earth
However, the theory is not confirmed and is hotly debated, and the idea of a “ carbon-depleted dry moon ” has already been challenged by some recent analyzes.
In their new research paper, the Japanese team of scientists claims that the high temperature collision – amounting to more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit – would have boiled the volatile carbon.
While this does not strictly refute the theory of impact, more thought may be required regarding a generally accepted theory for the mysterious history of our moon.
NASA’s next trip to the moon, scheduled for 2024, could be an opportunity to continue the research launched by Apollo’s moon samples.
The results come from the Japanese aerospace exploration agency’s SELENE spacecraft, nicknamed Kaguya, which had been in service for a year and nine months just over ten years ago.
“ It would be useful to further assess the initial amounts of volatile substances in the Moon – for example, future isotopic analyzes of C + emissions from the lunar surface – to provide a quantitative estimate of the mass balance of native carbon, solar wind and micrometeoroids, “the team said.
Earlier this year, another team of researchers concluded that the “Big Splash” theory was indeed correct, based on traces of Theia in lunar rocks.
Researchers at the University of New Mexico examined isotopes of oxygen in lunar rocks brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts.
They discovered differences in isotopes of oxygen – an indicator of the origin of the material – between lunar and terrestrial rocks, which could come from the remains of Theia after impact.
NASA to land first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 as part of Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
NASA chose her to personify her way back to the Moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in an increasingly complex series of missions that will allow human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will lay the groundwork for exploring deep human space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and will fly further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon during a mission of approximately three weeks.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in an increasingly complex series of missions that will allow human exploration to the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the different stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts without docking at a space station and will return home faster and warmer than ever.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next stages of deep-space human exploration where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon necessary for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations further from Earth, including Mars.
He will take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans on board.
The SLS rocket will go from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 tonnes to the Moon, to a final configuration capable of sending at least 45 tonnes.
Together, Orion, SLS and Kennedy’s ground systems will be able to meet the most difficult crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Ultimately, NASA seeks to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon by 2028 following the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes that this colony will make it possible to discover new scientific discoveries, to demonstrate new technological advances and to lay the foundations for private companies to build a lunar economy.