Planetary geophysicists have used a new numerical model to determine that the moon is in fact 85 million years younger than previously thought, having formed from the extremely violent and unlikely collision of two protoplanets.

The boffins at the German Aerospace Center, led by Maxime Maurice, produced a model to more accurately calculate what exactly happened when the protoplanet Theia smashed into a nascent, and still-forming, Earth about 4.425 billion years ago.

Previous estimations had suggested the moon formed around 4.51 billion years ago – that is, about 85 million years earlier. The new model suggests, however, that it was millions of years later when the molten Earth was still in the process of taking shape and covered in a vast ocean of liquid magma, that the collision took place.

It was then, they say, that Theia blindsided the world we call home, firing off a large globule of magma into space, which would later form the moon that orbits our planet to this day.

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“The results of our latest modeling suggest that the young Earth was hit by a protoplanet some 140 million years after the birth of the solar system,” says Maurice. “According to our calculations, this happened 4.425 billion years ago – with an uncertainty of 25 million years – and the moon was born.” (RT)