How did the moon form? This has always been an open mystery. There is a widely accepted theory that the moon is formed by debris from a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized star, and that the high temperatures generated by this collision can cause both volatile compounds on the moon to evaporate. But a new study by Japanese scientists has found that volatile carbon still exists on the moon, suggesting that the moon was formed at a lower temperature, challenging the theory of lunar formation, New Scientist reported Wednesday.
Using data from Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter for a year and a half, Yokota and colleagues at Osaka University found that carbon ions were released almost entirely on the moon’s surface. Moreover, some areas of the moon’s surface, such as the large basalt plains on the moon, release more carbon ions than others, such as the Highlands.
Yokota explains that these plains are made up of younger materials that are exposed less in space and therefore release more carbon, while more carbon has been lost in areas that take longer to form because of more weathering in space.
The researchers compared the moon’s carbon emissions with estimates of carbon from two external sources, the solar wind and collisions with micrometeoroids, and found that they did not match. “The moon’s carbon emissions are larger than the emissions from the outside, which means that the moon has its own carbon emissions, ” Yokota said. “
The discovery suggests that the moon contains volatile carbon, which was either embedded in the moon when it formed billions of years ago or was captured when the moon was formed.
Volatile compounds have a low boiling point and are usually found in the crust or atmosphere of planetary bodies. Previously, astronauts on the Apollo mission brought some lunar rock samples back to Earth, and analysis of those samples showed that carbon and other volatile elements existed only in the moon’s past years, when the moon lacked volatile compounds — a theory that the moon was formed by the collision of two stars.
But the latest discovery of volatile carbon on the moon suggests that the moon formed at a lower temperature, raising questions about the theory of collision formation. “We may make some modifications to the moon’s birth model, ” Yokota said. “