The Giant Impact Hypothesis

In an effort to resolve these apparent contradictions, scientists developed a fourth hypothesis for the origin of the Moon, one that involves a giant impact early in Earth’s history. There is increasing evidence that large chunks of material—objects of essentially planetary mass—were orbiting in the inner solar system at the time that the terrestrial planets formed. The giant impact hypothesis envisions Earth being struck obliquely by an object approximately one-tenth Earth’s mass—a “bullet” about the size of Mars. This is very nearly the largest impact Earth could experience without being Shattered.

Such an impact would disrupt much of Earth and eject a vast amount of material into space, releasing almost enough energy to break the planet apart. Computer simulations indicate that material totaling several percent of Earth’s mass could be ejected in such an impact. Most of this material would be from the stony mantles of Earth and the impacting body, not from their metal cores. This ejected rock vapor then cooled and formed a ring of material orbiting Earth. It was this ring that ultimately condensed into the Moon.

While we do not have any current way of showing that the giant impact hypothesis is the correct model of the Moon’s origin, it does offer potential solutions to most of the major problems raised by the chemistry of the Moon. First, since the Moon’s raw material is derived from the mantles of Earth and the projectile, the absence of metals is easily understood. Second, most of the volatile elements would have been lost during the high- temperature phase following the impact, explaining the lack of these materials on the Moon. Yet, by making the Moon primarily of terrestrial mantle material, it is also possible to understand similarities such as identical abundances of various oxygen Isotopes.

Q. Which of the following best expresses the essential information in the bold sentence in paragraph 1? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.

Select the Correct Answer:
Objects of planetary mass usually orbit the inner solar system
More and more evidence exists that indicates that big objects orbited the inner solar system when the terrestrial planets were created
There is more evidence to suggest that the terrestrial planets were formed in the inner solar system
The terrestrial planets formed when they were orbiting the inner solar system


30 Reading Questions for TOEFL Prep - Group 2