back to article Evidence of ancient WORLD SMASHER planet Theia - FOUND ON MOON

Traces of mysterious planet Theia have been found on the surface of Earth's Moon. Boffins have analysed samples of rock brought back by Apollo astronauts, and claimed they contain bits of another world. The discovery appears to back up the theory that the Moon was formed when Theia slammed into Earth some 4.5 billion years ago …

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Headmaster

Named by whom?

I find the BBC this morning was fascinated by the name. Just because someone dreamed up a name, it doesn't make it any more real.

I am interested in the science, but this populist crap is a dilution of it. Why didn't they name it "Norman"?

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Re: Named by whom?

Because it was already taken?

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Re: Named by whom?

According to Wikipedia, the name was coined in 2000. It's certainly been common currency for a good few years.

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Facepalm

Re: Named by whom? - D'oh, the boffs who worked out the hypothesis maybe

In Greek mythology Theia (one of the titans) was mother of the moon goddess Selene; so rather appropriate IMHO. .

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Re: Named by whom? - D'oh, the boffs who worked out the hypothesis maybe

But hardly common currency!

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Thumb Down

Re: Named by whom?

> but this populist crap is a dilution of it.

Must suck not even being able to read a science like article without your ideological glasses on.

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Coat

Re: Why didn't they name it "Norman"?

I think you'll find that this invasion predates the Norman invasion by quite a few years.

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Re: Named by whom?

And what was the 'name' of the proto-Earth before the collision that went on to form the Earth and Moon? Maybe us commentards could have a poll? (It is thought that Theia gave a large amount of core-stuff to proto-Earth and left a lot of mantle/crust stuff in orbit, hence our oversized core and large moon)

On reading the BBC's poor telling I came to The Reg in hope of a more fulfilling story, which will in turn make me search out other more-sciencey websites, like wikipedia, but alas my search continues...

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Re: Named by whom?

@Malc: And what was the 'name' of the proto-Earth before the collision that went on to form the Earth and Moon?

Do you mean in Greek Mythology or in science? Might be the same, actually...

Selene's parents were Theia and her brother Hyperion. Their parents were Gaia (rings a bell?) and Uranus. So whether you stick to mythology or go all "scientific" (and adopt the view that Selene was born out of a chance encounter between Theia and... hmm... Gaia) it gets incestuous really fast. Nothing particularly unusual for Greek Mythology, mind you.

The scientific version will have less trouble with biological impossibility of Gaia and Theia producing offspring (consider Selene adopted by her grandmother) than with genealogy of Selene's brother Helios. Thus full reconciliation between science and mythology will require a bit more ingenuity.

*Pulling tongue out of cheek*

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Back and forth

I have this collection of essays on science by the late paleontologist Björn Kurtén, published around 30 years ago, where he uses the idea that the moon was born out of a collision as an example of a plausible scientific theory that was disproved by evidence. I guess that was the prevailing view around 1980, but at some point the collision theory came back in favour...

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Re: Back and forth

It's good to have computer simulations.

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Rol
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Re: Back and forth

As the Earth was considered to only have had the slightest of skins on its surface, a large body passing very close, or even glancing could have brought the Moon into existence without necessarily leaving much of itself behind. Maybe, somewhere out there is a large body, dripping in evidence and looking rather guilty. I must admit Mars looks a bit red in the face.

"Where were you on the night of the attack and can anyone corroborate your story? I'm just going to take a swab for DNA. Please don't leave town Mars, as we may need to ask you some more questions later"

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Re: Back and forth

Better than having to use the destruction testing method to confirm this particular theory.

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Re: Back and forth

Upvoted for Björn Kurtén.

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Re: Back and forth

The Indians (Asian) and some no longer extant Western Chinese people, have a couple of mentions of another planet crashing into Earth and causing the rain, which had never occurred previously, and causing the 'Great Flood'.

I'm not sure how valid their science is, but the idea of another world crashing into Earth is very, very, very old.

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Re: Back and forth

I like when supposed myths turn out to maybe have a kernel of truth.

It suggests there's some ancient knowledge that's been lost to time. or that from-to-time, ancient people did some pretty good guesswork.

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Mushroom

Re: Back and forth

crashing into Earth and causing the rain

The "rain" in this case would consist of chunky bits of the planetary nickel-iron core falling down from around 60'000 km.

I hope your umbrella is solid.

Nuke icon, of course.

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Re: Back and forth

"... chunky bits of the planetary nickel-iron core..."

hey, you put up your umbrella against the rain you've got not the rain you wish you had.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Back and forth

Must be nearly 25 years since I've read Immanuel Velikovsky's books see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worlds_in_Collision . They were fun to read.

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Re: Back and forth@AC

I remember this book well; read in early '50's. Also remember the furore it caused and the accusations that boffins had closed minds.

What happened to Adamski?

And then, later, we had the Von Daenniken oeuvre.

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"There seems to be no reason for these interplanetary upsets"

"Only lead researcher Dr Daniel Herwartz, from University of Goettingen, provided an explanation."

"What do you find? The moon out of orbit?"

"By more than twelve degrees. lt must be a mistake."

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Happy

Re: "There seems to be no reason for these interplanetary upsets"

It was Ming what dunnit

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Anonymous Coward

Now

if they found a silver surf board...

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Are we here because of Theia?

Read an article online about a decade ago that postulated this collision as the reason why the Earth is so unique. With a large amount of our original crust now in orbit, we have very active plate tectonics, allowing mountains to continue to form, and for large areas of land to remain land long enough for terrestrial life to evolve to fire-burning and tool-using status. Other similar Earth-type worlds with thicker, less mobile crusts and less vulcanism eventually turn into waterworlds, with all land eroded away underwater. Although life may arise, because of the aquatic environment it can never discover fire and so never achieve technology.

Ah! Found it. http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-01x1.html

And it's called the Rare Earth Hypothesis. I didn't know that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis

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Re: Are we here because of Theia?

Never discover technology as we know it :)

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Re: Are we here because of Theia?

"Never discover technology as we know it :)"

Yeah, people say that, but surely you kind of have to get regular technology before you discover "other" types. Like if there is a route to advanced "get off the planet and explore the universe" technology other than through fire, then one would have thought our terrestrial cetaceans would have discovered it by now.

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Re: Are we here because of Theia?

I vaguely recall a related theory that the presence of the moon (not just the impact that created it) also influenced the composition of the crust and that it has more of the heavier elements in it that it would otherwise. Hence us having access to metals/minerals/isotopes and all the other things that we need for "technology"...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are we here because of Theia?

A terrestrial cetacean wouldn't have a problem with fire, their problem with fire is due to their aquatic nature.

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terrestrial cetaceans have eight words for you

"So long and thanks for all the fish"

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Re: Are we here because of Theia?

You can go really, really far with what defines technology and what defines an advanced civilization. People have gone very far with it indeed, to the point it gets hopelessly abstracted, but the underlying arguments are fairly simple:

- As a civilization grows more advanced it develops ever more technologies that are used to shape and influence the world around them as much as possible.

Or

- As a civilization grows more advanced it ceases to shape and influence the world around it as the civilization has learned to use nothing more than is provided.

Both arguments have merit and, interestingly, both represent the ultimate expressions of the extremes of advanced engineering. I lean toward the bigger, better, faster, stronger through applying science and mathematics to shape the world to as I want it (or my clients want it). But at the same time I've got crazy respect for my opposite who can accomplish truly phenomenal things with a stack of rocks and some trees. Oddly enough, my view on things isn't remotely sustainable and increases the overall effort burden for society as a whole.

In the end it's all speculative, highly esoteric philosophy of the highest order, but it's great pub conversation.

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Alien

Re: Are we here because of Theia?

Both of these view see "civilization" and "environment" as something distinct.

The right view is somewhere along a black-box view: in the same ways as chaotic Earth transformed into an Biosphere given free energy and time, biosphere + self-rewriting brains able to use external storage will transform into something new. This transformation may of course fail utterly, the universe must be full of failure. This is the nature of this experiment.

Beyond that, we know of nothing yet.

We will now put you in communication with the VERY territorial insect supermounds of the orion arm. They have a message for the apes, which mysteriously is about kebab removal. Please hold the line!

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Anonymous Coward

Add to the theory of collision and technoology

The theories of advanced civilisations who taught about geometry and such like, Atlantis etc

Possibly all have some truthful roots, maybe the advanced peoples lived in the area of the strike, tsunami ensued, wiped out their cities so they disappeared and now we call them Theories" ,

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Re: Add to the theory of collision and technoology

This happened 4.5 billion years ago. No humans around back. No anything other then maybe some microbes, if they were (un)lucky.

Humans weren't around 1 million years ago, much less 4.5 billions.

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Re: 4.5 billion years ago

Hey, that's no issue. Because the event was so, well, world changing, its kinda embedded in the "memory" of the atoms of the planet, and so its a part of every human makeup. It's all related to the same "memory" for want of a better word, that makes homeopathy work.

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Re: 4.5 billion years ago

As theories about the origins of the moon and earth come and go, so can theories about their ages. The moon need not be 4.5 bn years old.

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I'm gonna tell you one thing, kid...

Immanuel Velikovsky.

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Re: I'm gonna tell you one thing, kid...

He was more of a Sword and Sorcery type, though.

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Headmaster

More research is needed...

It appears to be compulsory that any researcher, at the end of any article, paper, talk or interview, will employ the immortal words of the Title.

The more creative will reword them slightly, as in "further analysis of a variety of lunar rocks is required for further confirmation". Well done, Dr Mahesh Anand from The Open University. Please accept a further research grant!

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Re: More research is needed...

At least there is no cause for alarm!

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Holmes

Re: More research is needed...

Indeed it is. The lunar rocks analysed are few in number and not considered as representative of the moon as a whole.

The oxygen isotope discrepancies are pretty minute and nowhere near as distinct as those of meteorites from both Mars and asteroid belt origins. Many possible scenarios from moon having no atmosphere or magnetic field to prevent solar wind contamination to residual contamination from asteroid bombardment.

On the other hand if Theia formed in a similar orbit to earth then it would have a similar isotope composition and such small discrepancies would fit. Also given the supposed nature of the collision there would have been significant mixing of material from both bodies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More research is needed...

Dynamical simulations show that matter can accrete around an Earth-Sun Trojan point, until the proto-planet is large enough in relation to the Earth that the orbit becomes unstable, occasionally ending in a collision. That would explain the similar composition, and "rare Earths" may not be so rare.

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Simple question

No doubt I'm missing something obvious, but if they're getting rocks from the Moon and saying: "ah-ha! these are different to the rocks on the Earth, they must be remanants of a different planet", then why aren't similar remnants found on Earth? After all, if the Moon is covered in bits of Theia, why isn't the Earth. And if it is, how can they know what is the baseline?

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Re: Simple question

They don't... that's not anti science, that's anti taking the ball, running out the field and ignoring the rules of science for some speculation on over the moon theories. :P

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simple question

> After all, if the Moon is covered in bits of Theia, why isn't the Earth.

As I understand it, the paper says that the collision between Theia and the proto-earth pulverised the planet. The earth and moon formed from that resultant mixture and thus have the same chemical composition / oxygen isotope content.

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Re: Simple question

Okay, I get that. But it doesn't resolve my question as to why there are useful differences in composition between the Moon and the Earth that they can attribute to a third body. If the Moon and Earth form from "the resultant mixture" as you say, what is the source of them being able to find evidence of Theia on the Moon, if you can only tell it is evidence due to its differences to rocks on Earth.

N.b. seeing all the replies that have been posted since mine, it's plain that this is contentious for some with accusations of "anti-science" et al. My questions are not me showing the theory is wrong. They're me asking questions. I must be missing something here.

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Re: Simple question

Okay, I get that. But it doesn't resolve my question as to why there are useful differences in composition between the Moon and the Earth that they can attribute to a third body. If the Moon and Earth form from "the resultant mixture" as you say, what is the source of them being able to find evidence of Theia on the Moon, if you can only tell it is evidence due to its differences to rocks on Earth.

I haven't studied the simulations, but I'd guess that the collision would result in a higher ratio of Theia-matter to Earth-matter in the ejecta than in the bits that coalesced back to Earth, and so the moon would have a slightly different composition.

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Planetisimal?

"The Moon was probably formed by a catastrophic collision of the proto-Earth with a planetesimal named Theia."

I think the word the boffin was searching for was protoplanet.

My understanding of the term planetisimal is that it describes the smallest possible aggregation of matter that can be called a planet - usually defined as that size where gravitational attraction overtakes brownian motion in the accretion process.

It's improbable that a teeny, tiny planetisimal was responsible for moon formation. On the other hand, a massive protoplanet could deliver a decent sized whack to the early earth.

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Re: Planetisimal?

Agreed, all I've read on the theory calls Theia 'Mars sized'.

That's hardly 'Planetisimal'.

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Coat

The moon is constantly being bombarded with meteorites. The sample may contain fragments of those meteorites.

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Anonymous Coward

They should have stuck with calling it Minerva

Seriously this was all explained in the Giants Series of SF books by English author James P Hogan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giants_series

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