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Feature Articles: How the Earth-Moon System Actually Formed

Feature Articles: Alien Abductions, Cattle Mutilations, Conspiracies, Roswell, UFOs

How the Earth-Moon System Actually Formed

The author hypothesizes the earth-moon combination was essential for human life on earth

From the Mother Molecular Birth Cloud to Planetary Composition, Mass and Spin at various solar radial distances the formation of the solar system during the T Tauri Birth Phase is reasonably well understood, and yet right here in the terran-lunar system is still the greatest mystery: How actually did this double planetary system come to be where it is? Or, more to the point, how did the thin film bio-sphere on terra's surface get here? The inner solar system is generally composed of HOT, dry, rocky planets as a natural consequence of the gravitational, thermal and magnetic gradients in the T Tauri Phase. That means only refractories will precipitate out of solution whereas volatiles like H2O won't. Thus Mercury, Venus, Earth and Luna are natural products of radial distance in the proto-solar nebula. So then, how is it that earth's surface is sopping wet, or 70% covered with water, when nearby Luna is BONE DRY?

Sounds like a good mystery doesn't it? A conundrum worthy of Sherlock Holmes' full attention. If it was an easy problem it would have been solved long ago. The first attempt was by George Darwin (Charles' son): The proto-earth was spinning so fast that the moon was thrown off as a blob and the Pacific Ocean is the "hole" left behind. This was good enough for your average Victorian-age man-on-the-street to swallow, but this theory falls apart almost immediately. There isn't enough spin angular momentum (as orbital momentum) in the system to account for it. Where is the Pacific Ocean water in lunar regolith, ala Apollo mission results? The moon would orbit directly in the terran equatorial plane, not some 17 (6.7 from the solar ecliptic) away. And, a spherical moon-blob would be roche-shredded/taffy- pulled into a long stream of mini-moons; a partial RING system would emerge beyond the Roche Lobe, not a spherical moon. And so G. Darwin's theory slips in to scientific history but it reappears later in an ironic twist.

The next theory is accretion from the original ring system of Terra. Saturn with its rings or the sun with its rings (planets) show how 99%+ goes into the massive spherical core of the accretion vortex but 99%+ of the original spin angular momentum of the molecular birth cloud or dust lane stays behind in orbit as orbital momentum. The terran accretion vortex was just beyond the intense magnetic field (that falls off as the inverse cube) of the proto-sun in the brief T Tauri Phase. Thus is has a pro-grade spin and like a miniature solar system differentiates into refractory core and volatile rich rings. Thus it is reasonably certain that terra had an original ring system similar to Saturn, and its tilt/obliquity can be understood as the coalescence of 2 1/2 vortices that produced the 23.45 tilt similar to Uranus' extreme tilt.

Lunar accretion from a disc/ring system (alone) has many problems such as where are the volatiles in lunar regolith, and why isn't luna orbiting in terra's equatorial plane (like Saturn's natural moons)? And so accretion-from the-original-ring-system doesn't make it as an explanation of how the earth-moon system formed, but it does contain one true fact: Terra did begin with a volatile rich ring system of gas/dust/ planetisimals which is central to the RC /RC scenario. Without it, we wouldn't be here.

The next failed theory is Impact-Splash wherein a "Mars" impacts the proto earth and Splashes out the proto-moon debris into stable earth orbit beyond the Roche Lobe at 16,000 km. Future science historians will refer to this theory as "ptolemaic" or "Lestade-like". It fails on at least 2 basic points: statistics and chemistry.

Since the "Mars" sized impactor has to be in an earth crossing orbit prior to the collision, its orbital area in the solar ecliptic is in the range of 10E16 kmE2 whereas the target area in earth's cross sectional area to impact and relaunch 1% of earth mass beyond 16, 000 km is about 1% of 127,528,700 kmE2, or 1,275,287 kmE2. Also, we know that the entire lunar surface was completely melted (all rock-clocks reset) at 4. 4 B and that the solar system formed 4.6 B years ago, so that the "Mars" impactor had at most 400 million " shots " at terra in those (max) 200 million years. Thus, putting those numbers together gives about a 1 in 125 chance for the Mars impactor to hit the 1% target area on the earth' s terminator in a max 200 million year period. Then when you factor in different orbital inclinations, say from 100 to 10,000, the probability for Impact-Splash happening as stated rapidly approaches ZERO. Since there were only a handful of large bodies in the inner solar system to start with (Wetheril1's analysis) then I-S is seen as highly improbable at best.

The other great failure of I-S is chemistry. When you impact 6.4x10E23 Kg into 6x10E24 Kg at 11 kps, you get some 3.87x10E31 Joules of kinetic energy release, or a GAMMA RAY BURSTER similar to the Shoemaker-Levy comet fragments hitting Jupiter. Even 1% of that energy, 3.87x10E29 J, spread all over the earth's surface is some 7.6x10E10 J/cmE2; MORE than enough to plasma-fry any volatiles present. In other words, I-S produces a true twin to Venus: HOT, dry, sterile. All the 0 of H20 would be snarfed up by Si/AI/Mg to make a bit more mantle rock (Si02/Al203/Mg0) and the freed H2 would float off into space to be carried off b y the solar wind. From a chemical viewpoint then, if I-S had happened as stated, you wouldn't be sitting there reading this; there would have been NO OCEANS on this planet, and thus no biosphere/life film.

0h, reply I-Sers, it must have been a COMET BARRAGE that later added the H20 to the planet. This is like equants/epicycles in Ptolemaic Astronomy. There are about 1.35x10E9 kmE3 of ocean water today. The Skylab mission discovered the large hydrogen plume from upper atmosphere solar dissociation of H20 so that we know the ocean was even more massive in the past. We know the ocean was basically in place 3.9 B years ago, or .5 B after 4.4 B. If your average comet delivers about .5 kmE3 to the earth's surface as liquid water then you would need about 5.6 comets hitting the earth, and ONLY the earth, each and every year for 500,000,000 years. So, where is that comet-wet H2O in lunar regolith, or on Venus? The Magellan Mission found that Venusian rock is super ceramic hard because it contains ZERO water as a lubricant. And the excess Du in the Venusian atmosphere is from solar/cosmic radiation (Venus has no real magnetosphere) not some long lost, comet barrage ocean.

Oh well, then the ocean water MUST have come from the mantle, say I-Sers. Wrong again. Geochemists have shown in the "water gap" analysis that at mantle temperatures/pressures the 0 of H20 is once again snarfed up by Si/A1/Mg; you just get more rocks, not H20 seeping up out of the deep mantle.

So, Impact-Splash is seen as just one more failed moon theory that falls apart on close inspection. Of course many will go to their grave believing in it as a religious faith/professional hubris but science is the search for truth not hubris. So, where did I-S go wrong? Answer: Velocity retardation at perigee. For a large incoming body to be captured into stable earth orbit it has to be slowed down. Otherwise, it is gravitationally slung-shot back into another solar orbit on a parabolic escape orbit. This is exactly how spacecraft are redirected from Jupiter to Saturn to Uranus to Neptune. . . . So, rather than the extreme scenario of direct earth impact there has to be another alternative way to get a lunar mass into the correct orbit around terra. There is in fact another way: RC/RC or Roche Capture/Remnant Core. It explains EVERYTHING.

A plausible scenario then: There were THREE accretion vortices at the Martian radial distance of 2.27x10E8 km in the T Tauri Phase. Two of them coalesced to form Mars with its 25 tilt but the third orbited far away; becoming the junior partner/major moon of Mars: Luna, in a wide ranging, resonant orbit dance.


During or soon after the T Tauri Phase a major event occurs: Jovian perturbation/solar blast/collision breaks luna free from Mars. Mars goes into its .0934 eccentric orbit and luna becomes an earth orbit crosser. Thus the stage for the RC/RC event is set. Both terra and Lena are ringed planets and fast spinning oblate ellipsoids. As luna approaches terra on a collision course both are gravitationally attracted toward the other but Kepler's 2nd Law (equal areas/equal times) kicks in as both orbit the sun. Thus both are rightward deflected from a direct collision. Luna, being only 1% as massive as terra means it is deflected the most and thus it "hits" terra's Roche Lobe wherein the terran gravitational gradient is higher than lunar surface gravity.

0nce inside the Roche Lobe it isn't just surface rocks that fall toward terra, the entire core/ planet is tidally distorted from an oblate ellipsoid into a football shaped prolate ellipsoid. If the lunar core/planet wasn't spinning the entire body would have been Roche shredded/taffy pulled into a long stream of mini-moons and thrown out of the terran gravity well on a parabolic escape orbit just like the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet fragments. But, it WAS spinning w/ a 1 hr to 3 hr rotation and the period inside the Roche Lobe was no more than 6 hours. Thus its high spin "saved" it. As the HUGE tidal bulge raises on the lunar equator the eastern (forward) side undercuts the tidal bulge so as to make a surf wave/crest with the tip falling upward/inward toward terra, For a brief moment the lunar core looks like a big comma: fat head and long tail.

As luna passes out of the Roche Lobe by a few hours later, it has now been fissioned into 2 components: a wobbling/woozy Remnant Core and fast moving stream of mini-moons (like s-l 9) that play the part of sacrifice / retro-fire rocket exhaust-thrown out of the terran gravity well at high velocity on a parabolic escape orbit. But now the RC has lost up to half of its mass and thus its gravitational attraction to terra is less (F=M1M2/d2) and since the tidal bulge / surf wave /mini-moon stream was on the side facing terra, the RC c.g. to terran c.g. distance is greater by several hundred km; thus the orbit of the RC is rightward deflected into a highly elliptical but CAPTURED orbit around terra. To wit, our MOON has arrived as but one more accreting planetisimal in the terran accretion vortex.

Now it becomes a bull-in-the-china-shop. With its 5 to 7 inclined orbit to the ecliptic vs terra's 23. 45 inclination it cuts up and down through the terran ring system twice a "moonth". The 2nd and all subsequent perigees are outside the Roche limit of 16,000 km but tidal shearing stresses are still very large at perigee which keeps luna/RC constantly covered with fresh lava, a glowing HOT ember for thousands of orbital periods. Thus the hydrate rich clathrate planetisimals are perturbed out of orbit and into the outer tendrils of terra's upper atmosphere (about 100 to 110 atmospheric -masses) where gas drag slows them down, and they fall as gentle rock-rain to the surface far below.

Thus a many km deep layer of ring planetisimals containing LOTS of volatiles builds up as a swath-band along the equator, something like the endless sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, on a Venusian type surface. Over the next .5 B yrs tectonic forces will massage/differentiate the ring planetisimal layer into refractory rich continental rock and liquid H2O oceans with a dense hydrocarbon atmosphere; the known environment of 3.9 billion years ago. Although most of the hydrate H2O percolates out as sea water (Gen 2:6) some still remains in the continental rock as "lubricant" which distinguishes it from Venusian continental rock-super ceramic hard=no water content.

Meanwhile in orbit the RC is gaining spin angular momentum from the ring system as orbital momentum (approx. equal in mass) and its orbital eccentricity is becoming less (more circular). The 5% to 10% ring mass impacting it, or its tenuous atmosphere (9O% to 95% ends up on terra, the larger gravity well) is plasma-fried on the lava surface or burns up as a meteorite. In either case the Ca/Fe/Ti/etc refractories are plated onto the lunar surface, thus adding back some of the mass lost in the mini-moon stream/rocket exhaust, but the volatiles in the ring planetisimals are lost to the solar wind and carried away. The moon can only hold an atmosphere about 1000 years or less because it is such a small gravity well.

Thus terra retains both refractories and volatiles as a cosmic spray paint job but luna/RC only retains refractories from the ring planetisimal source. In this way then you get virtually identical isotope ratios between lunar regolith and terran continents and similar densities (2.67 g/cc-continental density vs 2.5 g/cc-lunar regolith) and yet a "wet" earth and "dry" moon. And too, Martian density is 3.9 g/cc vs luna's 3.34 g/cc; a difference of 16.7% which can largely be explained by Martian self compression, as well as the plating process during the bull-in-the-china-shop phase of the RC/ terran ring interaction.

As strange as this may seem, if it hadn't happened this way you wouldn't even be here as a life form on the third planet of this G2 star. This planet (surface) would be very similar to Venus: warm and sterile with a massive CO2 atmosphere. And so the moon in earth orbit is long dead as to spin/tectonics and cold/battered black, but 4.4 billion years ago it played the key role in laying the foundation for eventual earth life by collapsing the terran ring volatiles onto terra's -surface.

Earth-moon theories then come back as a sort of circular argument. Darwin' s blob was an incoming "blob" that was fissioned inside the Roche Limit but it did create the Pacific Ocean. There WAS a primordial ring system like Saturn's ring system and almost as volatile rich. And the target area was the Roche Lobe which is 25 x 100 times the 1% of the earth's cross sectional area as target in I-S, which, even with different orbital inclinations, makes it a virtual certainty that RC/RC would happen in 200 million years after the T Tauri Phase.

Finally then, this RC/RC scenario has some looseness to it. It is not vital but probable that luna interacted with mars on its way to becoming an earth orbit crosser. Although luna was on an impact trajectory with terra Kepler's 2nd, as an interplay between orbital radial distance and orbital velocity, decrees that it will be rightward deflected no matter the direction of approach in the ecliptic. The lunar inclination to the ecliptic (vs earth's) indicates that it is an interloper and not of terran origin. The original lunar mass could have been greater or less than today. By "hitting" the Roche Lobe the lunar "impactor" solves the statistical and chemical problems of I-S as well as the velocity-retardation-at-perigee problem, by fissioning.

With a reasonably good astronomy software program one could work this RC/RC scenario into graphics or movie as there are a range of numbers that can be plugged in. And cosmic philosophers, in pondering the Drake equation, could plug this into the FL factor of N=R*FPNPFLFiFcL, or life might not be quite as prevalent in the universe as thought, as the RC/RC event had to happen just for there to be any chance for life to occur as it has on this planet.

Whether you call it Thoth, or Selene, or Luna, or Moon, when you next observe its light dancing on water you will know the secret of how it made YOU as a water-creature, and its sad, dry eyes nutate back and forth high above.

Wayne Powell

Montana, U.S.



Reprinted with permission of the author

E-mail: Wayne Powell

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