The Origin of the Moon

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Science  24 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4736, pp. 341-345
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4736.341


The origin of the moon is considered within the theory of formation of the terrestrial planets by accumulation of planetesimals. The theory predicts the occurrence of giant impacts, suggesting that the moon formed after a roughly Mars-sized body impacted on the protoearth. The impact blasted portions of the protoearth and the impacting body into geocentric orbit, forming a prelunar disk from which the moon later accreted. Although other mechanisms for formation of the moon appear to be dynamically impossible or implausible, fundamental questions must be answered before a giant impact origin can be considered both possible and probable.