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06/06/2017 – Ephemeris – Where did the Moon come from?

June 6, 2017

Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 9:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:57. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 5:10 tomorrow morning.

The origin of the Moon is a question that has vexed astronomers for years. Did it break off the molten Earth like a cell dividing? Was it captured by passing too close to the Earth? Neither is satisfactory. Chemical elements have different isotopes depending on the number of neutrons in their nucleus. The rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts show that the isotopes of the elements in the rocks is that same as for the Earth. We know that Mars and the asteroids have different isotope ratios. The hypothesis that seems most likely is that another planet, the size of Mars collided with the 100 million year old Earth in a glancing blow that gave rise to a disk of material that eventually coalesced into the Moon.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Collision spawning the Moon

The hypothetical collision of a Mars sized body with the young Earth. Credit: Joe Tucciarone via NASA

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