According to a new study, the moon was formed from a magma ocean that took up to 200 million years to solidify. This points out to the fact that the moon finished forming about 4.425 billion years ago, or 100 million years later than previously thought.
The study, which recently appeared in the journal Science Advances titled “A long-lived magma ocean on a young Moon“, was conducted by planetary geophysicists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), along with researchers from the Technical University of Berlin and the Institute of Planetology at the University of Münster.
According to Universe Today, When Earth was still in the process of forming roughly four-and-a-half billion years ago, the Solar System was a rather chaotic place. At the time, planetesimals that had also formed from the protoplanetary disk were tossed about and would occasionally collide with a planet. In Earth’s case, this had the effect of adding to its mass and causing its core region to become denser and hotter.
Over time, heavier elements sunk to the center of the Earth, leading to the formation of its iron-nickel core. At the same time, increasingly large parts of the Earth’s mantle melted to form a magma ocean. When Theia collided with Earth, this ocean became several thousands of kilometers deep and much of it was expelled into space. This material either was then reabsorbed by Earth or coalesced in orbit around it to form the Moon.
According to the scientists, the is the process by which the moon was formed. As Maxime Maurice, a researcher with the DLR and the lead author on the study, said:“The results of our latest modelling suggest that the young Earth was hit by a protoplanet some 140 million years after the birth of the Solar System 4.567 billion years ago. According to our calculations, this happened 4.425 billion years ago – with an uncertainty of 25 million years – and the Moon was born.”
The team found the evidence that as solidification progressed, there was a drastic change in the composition of the remaining magma ocean.
This finding allowed the team to link the formation of different types of rock on the Moon to a certain stage in the solidification process. Ultimately, this led them to conclude that the Moon’s magma ocean took almost 200 million years before it fully solidified to form the Moon’s crust. This contradicts what scientists previously thought, which was that it took only 35 million years to solidify.