Moon Helped Earth Turn Right-Side Up, Study Suggests

First Posted: Nov 02, 2016 06:03 AM EDT

There are still thousands of questions left unanswered in the universe, but among the biggest mysteries include the tilt of the Earth and the Moon in our solar system.

Many scientists agree that the moon was created due to a massive collision billions of years ago, when our planet was grazed by an object about as large as Mars, called Theia. However, the impact theory, as it is called, does not exactly explain why the Earth and the moon had different orbital tilts despite their identical isotopic makeup.

A new study published on the journal Nature noted that some holes in the theory could be explained better with in a framework that discusses a more violent impact than the accepted model. Douglas Hamilton, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland and co-author of the study noted that the material that the impact that blasted huge amounts of material that formed the moon would not work, considering that the Earth's spin axis is tilted at a 23.5 degree angle, as we know today.

Under the accepted model, the moon should fall in line with the Earth's ecliptic plane of orbit - but it is actually about five degrees off. Hamilton explained, "This large tilt is very unusual. Until now, there hasn't been a good explanation. But we can understand it if the Earth had a more dramatic early history than we previously suspected."

The new model noted a larger impact - enough to tilt the moon out of its supposed orbit - and with this new model comes the explanation on how the Earth came to be habitable. Christian Science Monitor noted that our moon, which is unusually large for a satellite body, could have been instrumental in supporting life on Earth by way of creating tides and regulating the mild axial tilt that allows for the formation of the seasons.

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