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The Moon

II. The Moon: General Information

3) On the origin of the Moon

Prior to the study of the Apollo samples, there was no consensus about the origin of the Moon. There were three principal theories: co-accretion which asserted that the Moon and the Earth were formed at the same time from the Solar Nebula; fission which asserted that the Moon split off of the Earth; and capture which held that the Moon formed elsewhere and was subsequently captured by the Earth. None of these work very well. But the new and detailed information from the Moon rocks led to the impact theory: that the Earth collided with a very large object (as big as Mars or more) and that the Moon formed from the ejected material. There are still details to be worked out, but the impact theory is now widely accepted.

The Moon surface
Figure 7

The Moon has no global magnetic field. But some of its surface rocks exhibit remanent magnetism indicating that there may have been a global magnetic field early in the Moon's history.

With no atmosphere and no magnetic field, the Moon's surface is exposed directly to the solar wind. Over its 4 billion year lifetime many hydrogen ions from the solar wind have become embedded in the Moon's regolith. Thus samples of regolith returned by the Apollo missions proved valuable in studies of the solar wind. This lunar hydrogen may also be of use someday as rocket fuel.

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The Moon

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