A multiple-impact origin for the Moon

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The hypothesis of lunar origin by a single giant impact can explain some aspects of the Earth-Moon system. However, it is difficult to reconcile giant-impact models with the compositional similarity of the Earth and Moon without violating angular momentum constraints. Furthermore, successful giant-impact scenarios require very specific conditions such that they have a low probability of occurring. Here we present numerical simulations suggesting that the Moon could instead be the product of a succession of a variety of smaller collisions. In this scenario, each collision forms a debris disk around the proto-Earth that then accretes to form a moonlet. The moonlets tidally advance outward, and may coalesce to form the Moon. We find that sub-lunar moonlets are a common result of impacts expected onto the proto-Earth in the early Solar System and find that the planetary rotation is limited by impact angular momentum drain. We conclude that, assuming efficient merger of moonlets, a multiple-impact scenario can account for the formation of the Earth-Moon system with its present properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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