Clues to lost planet Theia found deep in Earth’s core, revealing Moon’s birth


CALIFORNIA: In a recent study, researchers from the California Institute of Technology have suggested that two massive iron-rich structures located near the Earth’s core might be the remnants of an ancient planet known as Theia.

According to The Debrief, the planet is believed to have collided with Earth in a cataclysmic event, ultimately leading to the formation of the Moon. If this discovery is confirmed, it could significantly change our understanding of Earth’s history and how the Moon came into existence, providing evidence of Theia’s final resting place within Earth’s deep mantle.

For many years, scientists have been puzzled by the Moon’s origins. According to the prevailing theory, the Moon was created from the debris of a colossal collision between Earth and a mysterious planet roughly the size of Mars, named Theia. In Greek mythology, Theia was a pre-Olympian Titan and the mother of Selene, the Moon goddess.

The collision theory suggests that Theia once orbited the Sun along a path close to that of early Earth but was later perturbed by the gravitational forces of Jupiter, Venus, or both, leading to a violent collision with our planet.

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However, it’s believed that the Moon formed from the ejected debris resulting from the colossal impact. The composition of lunar rocks retrieved by Apollo astronauts has supported the theory, but direct remnants of Theia have never been identified.

In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers from CalTech propose that enigmatic structures deep within Earth, known as large low-velocity provinces (LLVPs), might hold the key to solving this planetary mystery.

These LLVPs were first discovered in the 1980s and were identified as continent-sized regions beneath Africa and the Pacific Ocean with unique seismic signatures due to their high iron content.

The origin of these dense regions has baffled scientists for decades, but a breakthrough came when Dr Qian Yuan, a postdoctoral scholar of geophysics at CalTech, had an epiphany during a seminar in 2019. He realised that Theia’s iron-rich material might have become part of Earth’s mantle in the form of LLVPs.

Through advanced seismic analysis and geochemical modeling, the research team conducted simulations of Theia’s chemical composition and its collision with Earth. The results confirmed that an impact between Theia and Earth would have led to the formation of LLVPs in Earth’s mantle and the Moon. Instead of mixing uniformly with Earth’s interior, Theia’s debris settled into two distinct masses within the mantle.

This discovery has broader implications, offering insights into Earth’s geodynamic behaviour over geological timescales. It also adds to our understanding of the violent events that shaped our planet’s history, shedding light on the ongoing celestial processes in the cosmos.

The researchers plan to further investigate how Theia’s materials influenced early plate tectonics, the formation of continents, and the origins of Earth’s oldest minerals. This exploration promises to provide a more comprehensive picture of Earth’s ancient past and its complex geological evolution.

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