The Moon - Scientific Theories and Mysteries

About the Moon, scientific theories for the unexplained mysteries of the moon.


Theories and Mysteries: The space program has had an incalculable impact on our knowledge of the moon; we have learned more about its chemistry and geology in the past few years than in the previous several centuries. Yet as ongoing analysis of data extends this knowledge, new mysteries arise and some old ones remain unresolved.

The substantially different terrain on the far side of the moon, first observed by spacecraft in 1959, presents a major new puzzle. In sharp contrast to the side facing us, the far side has only a few relatively small maria, no extensive mountain ranges, and considerably less evidence of past volcanic activity.

The nearly 200 lb. of rock and soil samples brought back from the moon show no trace of water or of compounds related to life processes; it is unlikely that life has existed on the moon during the past 3 billion years in which lunar rocks have remained in their present state. Radioactive dating of these samples indicates that the moon originated about the same time as the earth, 4.6 billion years ago, and chemical analysis shows it to contain the same elements, although in different proportions than on Earth. The moon's surface probably hasn't changed very much in the past 3 billion years of geological inactivity, but cataclysmic bombardments by debris of the newborn solar system, ending about a billion years before that time, obliterated nearly all evidence of the moon's birth. We may never know whether it formed by accretion of small bodies, by being cast off from the spinning earth, by collision or near collision of the earth and another body, or by some variation or combination of these.

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