Results from a Japanese spacecraft found traces of carbon and volatile water on the moon, which means that the lunar surface is emitting carbon ions. However, this questions the theory that the dusty rock formed in a collision between Earth and the 'wandering planet' Theia.
It is believed that the amount of volatile carbon should have been eradicated by the intense temperatures generated during the impact. But these findings say otherwise, suggesting that it has been there ever since the formation of the moon 4.5 billion years ago, which means that the 'impact theory' should be reconsidered.
Carbon Emissions on the Moon
The researchers said in an interview with Science Advances that carbon emissions were distributed over almost the total lunar surface but differed depending on the lunar geographical areas. They estimated that these carbons might have existed over the entire moon supporting the carbon-containing moon theory - wherein carbon was rooted at its formation and was transported billions of years ago.
These findings came from the SELENE spacecraft-nicknamed Kaguya - of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, which was in operation around the moon from 2007 until 2009. Scientists are still interpreting the results found from the lunar orbiter to deliver research results.
According to the researchers, Kaguya used an ion mass spectrometer to find fluxes in carbon ions that are too great that the solar wind could have transported or tiny meteoroids called 'micrometeoroids.'
Since the initial analyses of samples coming from the United States' famous Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s, scientists believed that carbon and other volatile elements no longer exist in the moon. Carbon is known to have a considerable influence on the formation and evolution of planetary bodies.
Driving Force of the Giant Impact Theory
As there are many theories on how the Earth's natural satellite was born, one of it is the 'Impact Theory' or the 'Big Splash.' One of its most significant driving force is that the moon does not have any carbon ions present on it, as it must have depleted during the great impact.
The Big Splash, which happened around 4.5 billion years ago and 150 million years after the solar system, is the most pervasive hypothesis in explaining the formation of both the Earth and the relatively large moon at that time, compared to other rocky planets.
According to this theory, the smaller planet Theia which was around 3,792 miles in diameter, has collided with Earth which is 7,917 miles. It created a ring of debris around Earth that eventually came together to form the moon.
However, this idea is unconfirmed and hotly debated, as the concept of a 'carbon-depleted dry moon' has been challenged by several recent analyses.
The Japanese scientists claim that high-temperature during the collision which registers at more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit would have boiled off the volatile carbon. Although their paper does not totally disprove the Impact Theory, more consideration may be needed regarding a generally accepted explanation of the mysterious formation of the moon.
The team said it would be useful to further evaluate initial amounts of the volatile compound in the moon to get a quantitative estimation of the mass balance of indigenous carbon, the solar wind, and micrometeoroids.
Earlier this year, a team of researchers claimed that the Impact Theory is correct after analyzing the rock samples from the Apollo missions. They discovered differences in oxygen isotopes of moon rocks and Earth rocks, which may have come from the remains of the Big Splash.