KEY POINTS

  • The Moon was created following a massive impact on Earth
  • The Earth's shape was distorted by the formation of the Moon
  • Earth had violent geological conditions because of the Moon

A new computer model revealed that the formation of the Moon might have distorted the shape of Earth during its early years. According to scientists, the natural satellite may have stretched the planet into the shape of a potato.

Scientific reports have indicated that the Moon was formed after a Mars-sized object collided with Earth shortly after it was formed. It is widely believed that the large chunks of debris that came from Earth and the impactor coalesced in space and formed a new cosmic object now referred to as the Moon.

Recently, a team of scientists developed a model that analyzed how the formation of the natural satellite affected Earth. The results of their findings were detailed in a paper that was supposed to be presented at the 51st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. Unfortunately, the in-person presentation at the conference was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the scientists, the Moon orbited Earth at a much closer distance when it first appeared.

The scientists estimated that the natural satellite was about 30 times closer to the Earth compared to its current distance. Since the Moon orbited Earth at such a close distance, the gravitational pull of the former had a strong effect on the latter.

As noted by the scientists, the pull of the Moon distorted the overall shape of Earth. Based on their model, the Earth was shaped like a potato or a rugby ball because of the Moon, the National Geographic reported.

Aside from the planet’s shape, the Moon’s close proximity to Earth also had a huge effect on its environment. The scientists noted that the planet’s shape and the Moon’s tidal effect made Earth a more volcanically active world.

The heightened volcanic activity contributed to the formation of different kinds of complex rocks and minerals. Scientists also believe that Earth’s violent geological activity also contributed to the planet’s major landmasses.

“In particular, the change of shape due to lunar tidal recession drove extensive tectonic activity,” the scientists wrote in the paper. “Hydrated crust and/or sediments could have been forced to depth and melted to produce evolved magmas and felsic rocks. We suggest that such rotationally-driven tectonics produced topography and felsic crust in the first.”

Earth-Moon
A study found that days on Earth are getting longer due to moon's gradual movement. Pictured, Earth and moon from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Separate images were combined to generate this view. NASA/JPL/USGS
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