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The moon might have had a heavy metal atmosphere with supersonic winds

Radiation from an early Earth that glowed like a star would have vaporized metal to form air layer

5:31pm, June 30, 2017
moon false-color image

ANCIENT ATMOSPHERE  This false-color image shows high (red) and low (blue) terrains on the moon’s surface (near side, left; farside, right), which could preserve a record of the early lunar atmosphere.

The infant moon may have had a thick metal atmosphere, where supersonic winds raised waves in its magma ocean.

That’s the conclusion of a new simulation that calculates how heat from the young sun, the Earth and the moon’s own hot surface could have vaporized lunar metals to give the moon an atmosphere as thick as Mars’. The model, reported online June 22 at, offers a way to test theories of how the moon formed and suggests how researchers could study exoplanets without leaving Earth’s own neighborhood.

Most planetary scientists think the moon formed when a Mars-sized protoplanet slammed into the Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. The collision threw hot, molten material into Earth’s orbit, which coalesced and eventually cooled into the moon.

At first, though, the moon would have been covered in a deep, global ocean of hot liquid rock. The postcollision Earth would have

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