A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Portsmouth has suggested that asteroid impacts have played a crucial role in the formation of the lunar surface. This study report overturned several previous theories which claimed that asteroid collisions have actually destroyed the surface of the moon.
An asteroid impact could have been the key
Scientists who took part in the study made this conclusion after analyzing moon rocks collected during the Apollo 17 lunar mission conducted by NASA. Researchers noted that these rocks were formed at a temperature of 2,300 degree Celsius, and it has made experts believe that this incredibly high heat could be the result of an asteroid impact on the lunar surface.
During the study, researchers used an advanced technique named electron backscatter to discover the presence of cubic zirconia, a mineral phase that would only occur in rocks that are heated above 2,300 degree Celsius. Later, researchers determined the age of this rock and found that it is at least 4.3 billion years old.
"The discovery reveals that unimaginably violent impact events helped to build the lunar crust, not only destroy it. Going forward, it is exciting that we now have laboratory tools to help us fully understand their effects on the terrestrial planets," said James Darling, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth, in a recent statement.
The formation of outer and inner layers of the moon
The new research report indicates that asteroid collisions in the ancient past have played a direct role in initiating the mixing of the inner and outer layers of the moon.
Scientists also believe that this new finding could help to understand more about the formation of the moon's crust in the ancient past, and it will, in turn, make experts aware of the earliest history of Earth.
"This study shows that we are still discovering new things about the Moon and its place in the Solar System by applying new analytical techniques to samples that were collected 48 years ago. However, we also have so many questions left to answer that will require a return to the Moon to collect new samples from completely new places and return them to our labs back here on Earth," said Katherine Joy, a researcher at the University of Manchester.