Our resident rocket scientist Ed Belbruno and his colleague from Princeton University, Richard Gott, are searching for the origins of the moon, using a theory they’ve proposed called the “Theia hypothesis.” The “Theia hypothesis” starts with the popular Great Impact theory of the Moon’s origin. Many astronomers hold that in the formative years of the solar system, a Mars-sized protoplanet crashed into Earth. Debris from the collision, a mixture of material from both bodies, spun out into Earth orbit and coalesced into the Moon. This scenario explains many aspects of lunar geology including the size of the Moon’s core and the density and isotopic composition of moon rocks.
As NASA’s STEREO probes approach the Lagrange point, it is thought that remnants of the Mars-size protoplanet remain here. Read all about this potentially-explosive discovery here on NASA’s webpage.
To read more about the fascinating science of space travel and the career of a mathematician at work in space exploration, read Belbruno’s captivating book FLY ME TO THE MOON: An Insider’s Guide to the New Science of Space Travel.
If you have any questions for Ed, leave them here and he’ll answer!