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Moon Earth Space Science

Pieces of Ancient Earth May Be Hidden On the Moon 96

swestcott brings us a story from about the possibility of finding evidence for ancient Earth life on the moon. A team of scientists has published work confirming that meteorites originating from Earth could have remained sufficiently intact while colliding with the moon to allow the survival of biological evidence for life. Quoting: "Crawford and Baldwin's group simulated their meteors as cubes, and calculated pressures at 500 points on the surface of the cube as it impacted the lunar surface at a wide range of impact angles and velocities. In the most extreme case they tested (vertical impact at a speed of some 11,180 mph, or 5 kilometers per second), Crawford reports that 'some portions' of the simulated meteorite would have melted, but 'the bulk of the projectile, and especially the trailing half, was subjected to much lower pressures.'"
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Pieces of Ancient Earth May Be Hidden On the Moon

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  • First (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Shit, I spent so much time thinking of something witty to put in here, I'm not first anymore!
  • by Kagura ( 843695 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:06AM (#23977817)

    It's a... oh, right.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:17AM (#23977893)
      ...ridiculous liberal myth?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
        you mean like how meteorites are apparently square? Seriously, wtf was that. At least make it round. I've never seen a square anything in space in my life. But apparently all life carrying meteorites are square.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by thermian ( 1267986 )

          I've never seen a square anything in space in my life.

          Governor Tarkin?

        • by julesh ( 229690 )

          you mean like how meteorites are apparently square? Seriously, wtf was that.

          A cube is probably the least likely structure to carry surviving life. A sphere is the strongest, and therefore the most likely. A cube was probably therefore the best simple structure to simulate.

        • by aliquis ( 678370 )


          (and yes, whole earth are part of space.)

  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:12AM (#23977857)

    Why the hell would you model an asteroid with some improbable shape like a cube?

    • by reset_button ( 903303 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:21AM (#23977913)
      Physicist jokes...

      A group of wealthy investors wanted to be able to predict the outcome of a horse race. So they hired a group of biologists, a group of statisticians, and a group of physicists. Each group was given a year to research the issue. After one year, the groups all reported to the investors. The biologists said that they could genetically engineer an unbeatable racehorse, but it would take 200 years and $100 billion. The statisticians reported next. They said that they could predict the outcome of any race, at a cost of $100 million per race, and they would only be right 10% of the time. Finally, the physicists reported that they could also predict the outcome of any race, and that their process was cheap and simple. The investors listened eagerly to this proposal. The head physicist reported, "We have made several simplifying assumptions... first, let each horse be a perfect rolling sphere..."

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Roliel ( 1119283 )
        The investor responded: "Why would we do that? Its not a sphere, its a horse!" To which the physicist responded "Have you ever tried to integrate over a horse?"
    • so that you can do the calulations
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:22AM (#23977917)

      A cube is pretty much the worst shape possible when it comes to distributing the force of an impact evenly across the entire object. So simulations show that cubes can survive crashing into the moon, then its fairly safe to say that other shapes can survive too.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:44AM (#23978025) Journal

      Why the hell would you model an asteroid with some improbable shape like a cube?

      Tetris killed the dinos!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      Because you have to model it as *something*.

    • by jd ( 1658 )
      Because they had to do something with the Borg ship they confiscated from the trekkie undergrad.
    • by layer3switch ( 783864 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @01:25AM (#23978233)

      some improbable shape like a cube?

      why is cube improbable? That's like saying, an asteroid looks more like a baseball than a lego brick. I would say, sphere is more improbable than cube.

      To find a perfect model for an irregular shaped object, cube is as good as any. Sphere would be the least likely and desirable shape to model after.

      • by tibman ( 623933 )

        mmm, round like planets, moons, or other bits of mass that gather into spherical shapes in zero-g?

        I do get your point though, they had to pick something. But perhaps they should have picked several somethings and gone with a few random shapes?

        • Planets and moons are only round because their gravity is strong enough to form them into spheres. Many asteroids aren't spheres because they are too small.

    • by mkosmul ( 673296 )

      Why the hell would you model an asteroid with some improbable shape like a cube?

      They must have been inspired by the last level of Doom II.

    • maybe secret fans of the borgs?

    • Perhaps the government-funded effort didn't have access to a 3D tool like BRL-CAD.
    • Why the hell would you model an asteroid with some improbable shape like a cube?


    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      Why the hell would you model an asteroid with some improbable shape like a cube?

      In the vacuum of space, aerodynamics don't matter.

  • by Ceriel Nosforit ( 682174 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:13AM (#23977865)

    Here's a good reason to go back to the moon if there ever was one. Or at the very least a better excuse than we've had so far.

    Though the survival of the species is always a good reason...

    • I agree, "I wonder..." has always been a good enough reason in my opinion. Without it humanity would still be living in caves without fire. For all the flaws the human species possesses being insanely inquisitive is not one of them.

      It's just such a shame that kids in school are considered "uncool" if they show this wonderful trait.
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:24AM (#23977929) Homepage

    Can just see the reaction to this. Life can't survive elsewhere in the solar system. It's all pieces of Earth that got blown out.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:41AM (#23978013) Journal

      Can just see the reaction to this. Life can't survive elsewhere in the solar system. It's all pieces of Earth that got blown out.

      That's why a study of the DNA etc. is important if life is found on another body. If the basic "alphabet" of the newly-discovered life matches that of Earth's, then most likely its a form of contamination from a central source.

      We wouldn't necessarily be able to tell where the original source is if such was the case. Other bodies in the solar system were stable while Earth was still smoldering such that perhaps life formed on a different body that cooled faster and then spread to Earth after it cooled. Identifying the original "seed body" may be tricky.

      • by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> on Saturday June 28, 2008 @01:12AM (#23978167) Homepage Journal
        Given there are multiple solutions to the DNA unwinding problem (but on Earth only one was used) and given that life on Earth has tended to convert symbiotic organisms into organelles with minimal DNA (or nothing) and migrate the rest into the nucleus (ie: a monolithic design, which isn't necessarly the only design nature could have opted for), and given there are other factors that probably became selected because of the specific prevailing conditions on Earth, if the contamination was far enough back, we'd be able to tell by the divergence. Earth had very specific conditions, and there are multiple solutions to many microbiological problems. Organisms on Earth may have tried several and adopted the one that suited Earth conditions best, or Earth conditions may have made multiple experiments impossible.

        (The cell itself probably post-dates the first 'true' life by a few hundred million years - long enough for any Earth fragments to be blasted onto nearby worlds - and the cell is only one way of building structured life. Assuming you have structured life. Pre-cellular life might be fine for some worlds, and mono-cellular life could potentially do much better than multi-cellular life in the atmosphere of a gas giant. You don't want complexity under harsh conditions.)

        However, this leads to a major problem. Given that the bases that exist on Earth probably are the bases that would be used elsewhere, anything that is too simple cannot be distinguished from a parallel line of evolution. Given the level of sophistication you can pack onto a tiny space probe, the level of sophistication you can distinguish at in practical terms is far greater than the level that you could distinguish at in textbook theory.

        • I had thought that the moon is mostly composed of material from the earth anyway? I know it's just a hypothesis but it seems pretty sensible. It could have been before any forms of life had started developing though, I don't know my time periods for when life is projected to have begun.

          (Source: [] )

          Giant Impact hypothesis
          The prevailing hypothesis today is that the Earthâ"Moon system formed as a result of a giant impact. A Mars-sized body (labelled "Theia") is believed to have hit the proto-Earth, blasting sufficient material into orbit around the proto-Earth to form the Moon through accretion.[6] As accretion is the process by which all planetary bodies are believed to have formed, giant impacts are thought to have affected most if not all planets. Computer simulations modelling a giant impact are consistent with measurements of the angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system, as well as the small size of the lunar core.[41] Unresolved questions regarding this theory concern the determination of the relative sizes of the proto-Earth and Theia and of how much material from these two bodies formed the Moon.

          • I had thought that the moon is mostly composed of material from the earth anyway?

            The Giant Impact studies done a few years back by Robin Canup (SWRI, Colorado) and others (whose names escape me ; I'm at work) showed that most of the core of a likely impactor ended up in the (proto-)Earth's core, while the debris ring consisted of similar amounts of the impactor ("Theia" in your cite) and the (proto-)Earth. The debris ring then segregated to form orbiter(s) and to re-impact.
            The impact process would have li

  • If you believe the collision theory. Five theories []

    Another theory is that Moon was tugged into place to stabilize Earth.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The collision theory is pretty much universally accepted by now. I'm not sure it requires a complete breakup of the planetoid that hit earth.

      ALso, looking at that site... the first theory... "The present Pacific Ocean basin is the most popular site for the part of the Earth from which the Moon came." I can't think of any reason why this is even remotely valid given plate tectonics and several billion years.

    • There was a great collision and the Moon was formed from the Earth, so the Moon is the Ancient Earth.
      Right ?
    • Directly from the page you apparantly googled (since you don't seem to have read it):

      A detailed comparison of the properties of Lunar and Earth rock samples has placed very strong constraints on the possible validity of these hypotheses. For example, if the Moon came from material that once made up the Earth, then Lunar and Terrestrial rocks should be much more similar in composition than if the Moon was formed somewhere else and only later was captured by the Earth.
      These analyses indicate that the abundanc

  • So aliens must exist! If they didn't exist the meteorites would be lying on the ground, not "hidden".

  • by catmistake ( 814204 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:34AM (#23977977) Journal

    We're whalers on the Moon

    We carry a harpoon

    But there ain't no whales

    So we tell tall tales

    And sing our whaling tune

  • Good (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:36AM (#23977987) Journal

    Tax the little buggers up there!

  • I can confirm that there are pieces of the Earth in the moon. Somewhere in the back of my closet, I keep a fossil of a ancient platypus that astronauts brought down from the moon a few decades ago. Looks an awful lot like Hexley [].
  • I'm having problems accessing /. homepage and I'm posting this from coral cache. oh! ..Wait.. I for one welcome our Chinese ddos overlords?
  • If not, it is not of much use knowing they could exist. After all the article says the meteorites would be small, fractured and covered by dust and later impacts. IMO expecting to stumble on them by accident on a return trip to the moon, as it says, is way too optimistic.
    • IMO expecting to stumble on them by accident on a return trip to the moon, as it says, is way too optimistic.

      It's a small world.. err.. moon, after all. It's amazing what you can bump into when you're not expecting it :p Send a few 'nauts up on holiday and they'll be sure to run into some pre-historic neighbours.

      • It's a small world.. err.. moon, after all.

        About the size of Africa. That's like saying you can drop by parachute in a random place in Africa, walk around a few miles, and find one or two diamonds. Except there are FAR FEWER diamonds than in real Afica.

        Just because it looks small in the sky, it doesn't mean it's that small.

        • It's a song/phrase. "It's a small world after all". I was basically just joking, but also pointing out that random meetings of people who know each other and end up meeting each other on holiday in a different country or an obscure part of their own country (even though they didn't know the other family was going there) do happen. Whenever that happens people tend to say "It's a small world" despite the fact that the world is not physically very small.

  • "Pieces of Ancient Middle Earth May Be Hidden On the Moon"
  • by Peter Harris ( 98662 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:15AM (#23979561) Homepage

    Presumably the collision needed to splash a bit of rock off the Earth, through its atmosphere, up its gravity well to the moon would be at least 6 times as forceful as the collision with the moon.

    They'd have to show that bits of organic material would survive both collisions to make it plausible.

    Then explain how you would go looking for the few unlikely surviving chunks on something the size of the moon. Which by the way keeps getting hit all over with rocks from everywhere else, hence all the dust and craters.

    Good luck with that.

    Or is this just one of those things like string theory where you get to make up a hypothesis that you can't possibly actually falsify?

  • Take off? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @09:59AM (#23980461) Homepage

    The article doesn't mention how these earth-originated asteroids become space-borne, except a brief mention of the "Late Heavy Bombardment." I would think that pieces of earth that are sent into space by other asteroids hitting earth, would be subject to *far* more stress, heat, and general voilence in being struck hard enough to reach escape velocity, than they would on a simple re-entry.

    Surely the impact event and associated energy required to eject the matter from Earth's stronger gravity and much thicker atmosphere, would be far worse when compared to the landing on the moon, no? (I know it's not a direct comparison, but consider how much fuel the Apollo missions in the massive boosters used to get out of Earth's gravity, versus how little they used to decelerate down to the moon's surface, carried on board the relatively small lander.)

  • Quiet, secluded location. Clear skies. Perfect for the adventurous. Ideal for your country estate or getaway. Some restrictive covenents; but they aren't being enforced. Possibility of well water on site. Bring all reasonable offers.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.