A new study published this week in Earth and Planetary Science Letters suggests that a fragment of rock found in lunar pattern number 14321, better known as Big Bertha, It will be from terrestrial sources.
This lunar sample, less than one kilogram, was collected by NASA astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell in 1971 as part of The mission of Apollo 14 and has recently undergone a re-analysis at NASA's CLSE Center for Science and Research.
As Gizmodo explains Katie Robinson, a CLSE post-graduate student and co-author of the new study, it has long been known that this rock contains something unusual, but it is only now possible to establish a hypothesis about this anomaly.
It turns out that Big Bertha had a small piece of rock in it, approximately two grams of mass. In this fragment, quartz, feldspar and zircon have been found. All minerals that are common on Earth, but which are hard to find on the moon.
This motivates the researchers to perform a chemical analysis of the sample, which concludes that it was formed in a high oxygen environment and with temperatures similar to Earth's. So the suspicions were obvious: the scale will be of terrestrial origin.
"What we did was to use the mineral composition in the fragment to show that it was formed under conditions that only occur on Earth," "Robinson explained. For example, the composition of some minerals is sensitive to temperature and pressure; they contain more or less than a few elements if they crystallize in hot or cold environments and / or deep or shallow. Other minerals can show whether the scale has been formed in the presence of a large amount of oxygen or in a very bad oxygen environment. "
– Our data shows this This fragment is formed in a higher pressure medium with a higher oxygen content and a lower temperature than what is produced on the Moon. Essentially, it had to come from a Earth-like environment, "he added.
Obviously, the environment, similar to Earth, closest to the Moon, is Earth itself.
But how is it possible that a rock has come from the Earth of the Moon?
Leading authors of the study, Jeremy Bellucci of the Swedish Natural History Museum and Alexander Nemcine of the University of Kurtin, Australia, say that this rock was traveling to the natural companion during the one-eyed Hadjiko.
The Hadon Eon is a period in which The earth has been regularly hit by large objects. These impacts not only regularly produce thousands of kilometers in diameters but also They ejected material from our planet into formation.
In this way, the researchers suggest that at this time, due to the collision of an object, this generic fragment of the Earth would reach the Moon, where it would remain millions of years until the Apollo 14 mission brought it to Earth.
In this sense, one of the most fascinating aspects of this discovery will be the age of the rock. According to the study, this fragmentat about 4 billion years, who, if his earthly origin is proven, will turn it into one of the oldest samples that has a record.
But that would not be the oldest rock, as this crown belongs to zircons ranging between 4.4 and 4.3 billion years in Western Australia.
Although the earthly origin of this Big Bertha fragment is the underlying hypothesis of the study, the investigation also raises the possibility that it was formed in the moon, Something that would be less likely, but urges me to continue to investigate this finding.