Dating the Moon-forming impact event with asteroidal meteorites

W. F. Bottke, D. Vokrouhlický, S. Marchi, T. Swindle, E. R. D. Scott, J. R. Weirich, and H. Levison

Science 17 April 2015:
Vol. 348 no. 6232 pp. 321-323
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0602


Supplementary materials (PDF)

The inner solar system’s biggest and most recent known collision was the Moon-forming giant impact between a large protoplanet and proto-Earth. Not only did it create a disk near Earth that formed the Moon, it also ejected several percent of an Earth mass out of the Earth-Moon system. Here, we argue that numerous kilometer-sized ejecta fragments from that event struck main-belt asteroids at velocities exceeding 10 kilometers per second, enough to heat and degas target rock. Such impacts produce ~1000 times more highly heated material by volume than do typical main belt collisions at ~5 kilometers per second. By modeling their temporal evolution, and fitting the results to ancient impact heating signatures in stony meteorites, we infer that the Moon formed ~4.47 billion years ago, which is in agreement with previous estimates.