Tags: venus | earth | moon

Venus, Earth, Moon: Was Orbiting Body Stolen From Sister Planet?

Image: Venus, Earth, Moon: Was Orbiting Body Stolen From Sister Planet? The planet Venus appears next to a crescent moon just after sunset Feb. 27, 2009, as seen from Tucson, Arizona.

Wednesday, 02 Oct 2013 07:59 AM

By Alexandra Ward

A new theory suggests that Venus gave up its only moon to Earth billions of years ago when the Blue Planet's gravity sucked the natural satellite into its own orbit.

This new hypothesis contradicts the original belief that the moon formed after a planet-size body smashed into a budding Earth about 4.5 billion years ago, according to Space.com.

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The new moon formation theory, which researchers presented this week at the Origin of the Moon conference at the Royal Society in London, is based off the fact that most of the other planets have moons. Earth has one, Uranus has 27, and Saturn has more than 50, but Venus doesn’t have any.

"The reason why it's interesting is that Earth and Venus are close to each other. They have similar mass, and people think they have probably formed in a similar way," Dave Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology who proposed the Venus idea, told Space.com.

"So the question is, if Earth and Venus formed in similar ways, how come the Earth has a moon and Venus doesn't? ... I think part of the key to [understanding] the moon may be that Venus has no moon, and we certainly have to study [Venus] more."

However, other scientists discredit Stevenson's theory based upon the geochemical composition of the moon. Tests have shown that the moon and Earth have very similar isotopic composition, which suggests that the "material that makes up the moon did actually either come out of the Earth, or that the stuff that was in the disk that formed the moon got completely mixed up with the stuff in the Earth," Alex Halliday, head of science at Oxford University, told Space.com.

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