Where did the moon come from?

You’d think this would be an easy question, discovered and agreed upon by scientists for some time. After all, we’ve traveled there, and learned about much farther away and more obscure objects in outer space. I am watching the History Channel’s The Universe right now and finding it fascinating. Tonight I watched an episode on the moon which discussed various theories about the origins of the moon. Amazingly, it was not until 1984 that a theory for how the moon came to be came to be generally accepted among scientists, and even now it is not proven or universally agreed upon.

Major theories:

1) In 1873 Édouard Roche proposed the “co-accretion theory,” which stated that the earth and the moon formed as a double system out of the same material around the same time, as a kind of solar system in miniature. The other planets in our solar system have origins as gas rings revolving around the sun which eventually contracted and coalesced into solid globes because of gravity – why couldn’t the moon have formed in the same way? The problem with this view is that the moon has a much lower core iron content than the earth – if they developed at the same time, they should have the same composition (at least roughly). This theory also struggles to account for the angular momentum of the moon.

2) In 1878 George Darwin (Charles Darwin’s son) proposed the “fission theory.” Darwin discovered that the moon is gradually moving farther and farther away from earth (1.5 inches per year). Therefore Darwin, considering what would happen if we traced this movement backwards in time, proposed that a portion of the earth had separated off from the earth early in its history (the “scar” of which was believed to be the Pacific Ocean). But in order for this theory to work, the earth would have to be spinning too fast to account for its present rotation speed. Also, no credible cause for this alleged separation has been established.

3) In 1909 Thomas Jefferson Jackson See proposed the “capture theory:” that the earth had originally been a separate globe and then at some point gotten too close to earth and been drawn in by its gravity. There is no resisting medium, however, to cause such a massive object as the moon to slow down enough to be captured.

4) The theory that has finally gained relative acceptance is called “giant impact theory.” This is the idea that the moon is the result of an asteroid collision into the earth early on its history. In this theory, this collision scatters an arm of material into orbit around the earth, which gradually coalesced into the moon. This collision is what caused the earth to start rotating, gave us 24 hour days, and deposited huge amounts of iron into the earth’s core.

Fascinating!


Clarifying thought: of course I believe God created the moon. But my idea of “creation” is wide enough to incorporate the use of intermediate causes, as we can say that God is the creator of trees, when (viewed from another angle) trees come from seeds.

10 Comments

  1. ErinOrtlund

    Interesting! I had it in my mind it had come from the earth where the Pacific Ocean is–didn’t realize that was not the current understanding. When you say it caused the earth to start rotating, did it not rotate at all before? What about the other planets in the solar system—do they rotate?

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  2. Wow, Gav, that is so colossally stupid to say God works through intermediate causes. What kind of secular, liberal thinking is this? Shame on you!No, kidding, this is an awesome post. It is almost a little scary to me when I think about the vastness just of our solar system, much less the universe. And all of it is dust and less than nothing before God! Yikes . . .

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  3. Gavin Ortlund

    Erin, the episode made it seem like this collision caused the earth to start rotating, but after reading about this it seems it must have already been rotating, and the collision merely formed its current rotation speed. Yes, my understanding is that the other planets all rotate as well, with the bigger ones generally rotating faster. Jupiter rotates so quickly that its equator bulges, while Mercury rotates so slowly that a year there is shorter than a day (i.e., one orbit around the sun is shorter than sunrise to sunrise).

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  4. ErinOrtlund

    Thanks! Very fascinating.

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  5. Look at Hugh Ross DVD Journey Toward Creation (PS: be sure to look in the bonus section concerning who the creator is…and how the various religions are catagorized). There is also the Science Channel “What if we had no moon” see how the secular scientists have struggled and yet the more they try to disprove Creative Design they more they end up painting themselfves into a corner. Earth Spin: I beleive I heard that the Earth spun faster before the moon.

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  6. Hi Gavin,

    The origin of the moon has been known for thousands of years. Sadly our radical reductionistic science just isn’t there yet!

    The answer you seek likes here:

    http://www.magic.point.org/

    Happy reading,

    Richard

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  7. Robert Avery

    It’s time to wake up and acknowledge God – the one who made the moon, you, me, the earth, the sun and the rest of the universe.

    Why is this so hard to accept? It’s because we are all sinful people and our natural inclination is to ignore God and his wonderful creation.

    We need to accept that there are some things in this life that are bigger than us and our scientific explanations. Start giving credit where it’s due and accept that God created us and that we answer to Him for how we live our lives.

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  8. Gavin Ortlund

    Hi Robert,

    I do believe God created the moon, as I stated at the end of my post. My post concerns how he did so. Blessings,

    gavin

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  9. hi,
    i need to know where the moon cam from not all the other stuff jst please send me an e-mail saying the answer 2 where do scientists think the moon came from!!!??? love always lexi xxx

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  10. if any want to go bit into human knowledge left rather then human “discoveries” then google Before The Moon Came To Be, there are records left of ancient people that lived b4 it appeared, these records are found in the ancient pre helens to the biblical. The Pelasgians lived b4 moon appeared and in the ancient mayans its dated 13.000 to 11.500 years ago.
    check pictures of moon and see how deep are its craters , almost identical , not diff from earth and mars.

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