Magazine article Children's Technology and Engineering

Goodnight Moons?

Magazine article Children's Technology and Engineering

Goodnight Moons?

Article excerpt

The way we learn about human history is by reading what people wrote about the past. But how do we figure out what happened before there was writing? Or even before there were people? Fortunately, science offers lots of ways to "read" the history of Earth, the Moon, the solar system, and the whole universe.

The history of the Moon is a good example. When Earth was very, very young, scientists are pretty sure it did not have a moon at all. There's evidence that early in Earth's life, a huge object--perhaps the size of Mars--slammed Into Earth and knocked a huge amount of rocks, rubble, and dust into space. Earth's gravity kept this stuff from traveling far, though. Instead, the rubble went into orbit around Earth. Before long, the rubble started to glom together into larger and larger chunks.

So, here's the question. Did the pieces just naturally all come together into one big piece, which is now our Moon? Or was there more than one Moon for a while?

History has left behind some weird features on the Moon that scientists can't yet explain. The side of the Moon that faces Earth (always the same side) Is low and flat. The other side that faces away from Earth is high and mountainous, with a much thicker crust. Some scientists think two different moons may have formed at first. They think maybe the smaller moon began to drift slowly toward the larger moon. The two moons finally collided in a low-speed "splat." The smaller moon spread out sort of like a pancake on the larger moon's surface and became the highlands and thicker crust now on the far side of our Moon. …

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