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New theories suggest water may have always had a presence on the moon due to its materials colliding with comets

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, researchers have studied the existence of water on the moon and discovered its origins. 

Larry Taylor, study leader and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, along with a team of researchers, have found where the water on the moon originated.  

Taylor was not only able to trace the lunar water's origins, but he was the one who discovered that the moon even had water in the first place. This lunar water discovery he made last year changed all beliefs that the moon was completely dry.

Since this discovery, researchers also found that the moon has an abundance of water. So much, in fact, that humans could possibly live on the moon. Now, Taylor has found the origins of all this lunar water.  

Taylor and his team believe the water came from comets crashing into the moon shortly after it formed. They came to this conclusion after studying rocks that were retrieved from the Apollo mission. The team then measured the rocks' water signatures through the use of secondary ion mass spectrometry, which could allow researchers to tell where and when the lunar water originated.  

As it turns out, water on the moon is different from water on Earth. This discovery led to the belief that comets supplied the moon with a majority of its water back when it originally formed.  

It is believed that the moon formed when the nascent Earth and Theia collided, sending materials out into space. These materials created the moon, and according to Taylor's theory, comets were hitting both the moon and Earth. But because the Earth already had an abundance of water, it was not affected by these comet collisions and did not acquire enough of the comets water for it to be integrated into its original water system. But the moon, which was dry at this point, received a majority of its water via comet collisions.  

"This discovery forces us to go back to square one on the whole formation of the Earth and moon," said Taylor. "Before our research, we thought the Earth and moon had the same volatiles after the Giant Impact, just at greatly different quantities. Our work brings to light another component in the formation that we had not anticipated - comets." 

Taylor's new theory of how the moon formed suggests that water has been present throughout the moon's entire history. While comets supplied the moon's internal supply of water, solar winds supplied the moon's external supply of water.  

What makes the water on the moon different from water on Earth is that it contains the ingredients for water - hydrogen and oxygen - but is not yet water. If the rocks on the moon were heated up, the ingredients would turn into water.  

"This water could allow the moon to be a gas station in the sky," said Taylor. "Spaceships use up to 85 percent of their fuel getting away from Earth's gravity. This means the moon can act as a stepping stone to other planets. Missions can fuel up at the moon, with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the water, as they head into deeper space to other places such as Mars." 

This study was published in Nature Geoscience.

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By geddarkstorm on 1/13/2011 3:35:33 PM , Rating: -1
I just can't get behind this belief about the origins of the moon. Not only does the conservation of momentum say this is impossible (the speed at which the moon moves, if it were touching the surface of the Earth, would mean our planet was rotating so fast as to rip itself apart), but the fact the moon has an iron core means the Earth would have had to be shattered all the way to its core. Doing so would have left not our planet, but a nice asteroid belt.

Add to this, this different water than our planet, and the picture looks much more likely that the moon was captured by Earth, not made from it. The only evidence I know of suggesting the moon and Earth were once one, is the oxygen isotope ratios. But that could easily be coincidence. And in fact, if the moon was made from a collision with the imaginary Theia, then the isotope ratios should not be an even distribution since part of Theia would be in there.

If Earth did capture the moon, the moon likely formed further out in the solar system, such as near the asteroid belt, based on the ratio of its core size to overall size (the ratio decreases the further away from the sun you go).

RE: Theia
By drycrust3 on 1/13/11, Rating: 0
RE: Theia
By ClownPuncher on 1/13/2011 4:11:32 PM , Rating: 2
So God appointed 2 regulatory bodies to do what a simple bending of the Laws of Physics could have accomplished. What a dirty Progressive.

Less bureaucracy, down with the Moon!

RE: Theia
By drycrust3 on 1/13/2011 8:21:21 PM , Rating: 5
So God appointed 2 regulatory bodies ...

Look at it from the good side: we don't pay them, we don't get nonsense PR press releases, we don't even get them arguing over what sort of light is best for us or when the next high tide should be! We just get honest good sunlight and regular sea tides without a murmur! How many regulatory bodies do you know of that don't cost us a cent and contribute billions of $$$ to the world economy?

RE: Theia
By SiliconJon on 1/13/2011 4:30:49 PM , Rating: 3
You just simplified calculations so crazy complex intense that we design supercomputers to do them for us into a simple violation of momentum? It's just not that simple - these aren't colliding tennis balls. Granted there may well be some great alternatives to this the Theia theory, but using a "violation of the conservation of momentum" doesn't appear to be a successful step in finding any such alternatives.

RE: Theia
By DanNeely on 1/13/2011 4:43:16 PM , Rating: 2
That's not true. The moon does have some heavy metals (like iron) but in much lower amounts than the other rocky planets. What heavy metals is does have wouldn't need to come from the Earth's core either, they'd be debris from the much smaller impactors core, most of which would have sunk into the center of the Earth.

The impact would have thrown debris as all sorts of speeds. Most either fell back down, or escaped the Earths gravity entirely and went off into space. The Moon itself was made from the small fraction of the debris that ended up in stablish orbits and coalesced from the debris ring.

Both bodies crusts and upper parts of their mantles would have been vaporized in the impact, crust material we can see on both is made form the same pool of mater.

RE: Theia
By MozeeToby on 1/13/2011 5:44:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ironically, one of the reasons that the giant impact hypothesis is the preferred one is that it is very difficult to account for the high angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system without a massive impact.

A glancing blow between two proto-planets trades solar-orbital momentum for rotational (for the Earth) and geo-orbital momentum (for the Moon). Thus it can explain the Earth-Moon's systems unusually high angular momentum quite easily compared to other models which, as you yourself put it, would have the earth spinning so fast as to nearly tear itself apart.

RE: Theia
By AssBall on 1/13/2011 5:53:25 PM , Rating: 2
You can't get behind it because you think it is a belief, when in fact it is a well modeled theory. Just because you personally don't understand the complex processes doesn't make it a faith based notion.

When the earth was young and forming, it was also very hot. The "core" was all over the surface, and molten. As a previous poster said, you are grossly oversimplifying the gravitational, orbital, and general dynamics of the theoretical event.

RE: Theia
By MozeeToby on 1/13/2011 6:02:18 PM , Rating: 2
Careful there throwing around the word 'theory'. The giant impact hypothesis doesn't have enough weight of evidence behind it to be moved into theory territory yet. And it has some significant difficulties explaining some of the observed facts, including some of those that he OP brought up. Diluting the word just makes it easier for a certain group to deny a certain other divisive theory.

The evidence that supports it amounts to the unusually high angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system and the nearly identical Oxygen isotope levels found between the Earth and Moon (which is also used to argue against it, since modern models show that most of the moons material would have come from Theia, thus they should be close but slightly different).

RE: Theia
By AssBall on 1/13/2011 7:07:03 PM , Rating: 1
A well modeled "hypothesis", then, if You'd rather.

RE: Theia
By wordsworm on 1/14/2011 2:54:42 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe you ought to pick up a dictionary and research the meaning of the word theory before trying to pick other people's vocabulary for them. These are real scientists who know what it means, and use it appropriately.

RE: Theia
By geddarkstorm on 1/14/2011 3:02:56 AM , Rating: 3
A theory is a hypothesis supported by empirical evidence that has beaten out multiple null hypotheses and other competing hypotheses designed specifically to challenge it. A hypothesis cannot be a theory simply because other hypotheses have not been proposed to challenge it yet, but only -after- such has occurred in a rigorous manner. That's the -scientific- definition of theory, different from the laymen use.

But the word theory is used far too loosely even by the scientific community these days. It isn't as stringent a meaning as it once was. And this creates confusion in the media.

RE: Theia
By wordsworm on 1/14/2011 10:54:01 AM , Rating: 1
That's not true at all. For example, we have the Big Bang vs. the Static Universe. Both are theories. Even string theory, despite lacking falsifiability (normally a key element needed before being called scientific at all), is still referred to as a theory by a large scientific body. As a joke, I like to refer to the Magic Fairy Dust theory, which can be used in place of String Theory. In order to prove it, I need to harness the power of a supernova.

You see, a theory can even be dismissed as wrong and still be a theory. The Static Universe Theory has been around for a long time, and everyone still calls it a theory. So, even if the scientific community rejects a theory, it doesn't necessarily stop calling the idea a theory.

RE: Theia
By geddarkstorm on 1/14/2011 1:42:22 PM , Rating: 2
You just proved my point completely. Using "theory" in such a way takes all weight of substantiation out of the word. You cannot now look at something called a "theory" and immediately know that it has a wide breadth of evidence backing it, making it quite likely the truth. For many of these "theories", that is completely not the case, and they are nothing more than "what ifs" or well wishes. But "theory" sounds better than "hypothesis". What then, is a "hypothesis" if a "theory" is anything that comes out of a scientist's mouth?

String theory has never been and doesn't have any way to even be tested (except maybe one method, but even that is debatable), so it isn't even science! As for anything to be science, it has to be testable and falsifiable. Period. And yet, we call it "theory"? And is it any wonder the populous at large is confused about science?

RE: Theia
By geddarkstorm on 1/14/2011 2:56:29 AM , Rating: 3
No, it isn't a well modeled hypothesis, unless you mean quantity not quality. It's had many models done, with many differing conclusions. There are alternatives with just as much evidence behind them, and just as many holes. The evidence used to support the Great Impact hypothesis, can equally be used to support a different hypothesis; that's a glaring problem. Therefore, picking ONE of the explanations and asserting it as certain fact is indeed a belief. In fact, the very definition of a belief.

I tend to favor basic physics as a rule things must conform to, until proven otherwise. And even our models of planet formation are constantly being challenged and changed as we discover exo planets that completely break them. This hypothesis will be visited again in the future, once we know more, and then, if the evidence really tips in its favor, then I will side with it. As, my good sir, I follow only the facts, and if they are inconclusive, then they are inconclusive.

RE: Theia
By JKflipflop98 on 1/14/2011 7:50:23 AM , Rating: 2
The Earth doesn't have a big enough gravity well to capture something with the mass of the Earth.

Your physics are weak, old man.

RE: Theia
By geddarkstorm on 1/14/2011 1:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
You honestly believe the moon has the same mass as Earth?

If the Earth doesn't have a big enough gravity well to capture the moon--which could have come along side it through multiple passes, the same way we insert interplanetary probes into orbit--it doesn't have a big enough gravity well to capture such a glob of material ejected at high velocity -away- from it, either.

RE: Theia
By Scabies on 1/13/2011 7:44:19 PM , Rating: 2
My conclusion here comes from Saturn having "rings" and Earth having none.

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