Can the Moon fall to the Earth, and how likely is such a catastrophe?

(ORDO NEWS) — The Moon has been a close satellite of the Earth for billions of years, and although our idea of ​​its shape and size changes somewhat as it orbits our planet, the Moon is always present in the sky. But what happens if one day this changes?

In the 2022 film Moonfall, a mysterious force is knocking the Moon out of its orbit and pushing it into a collision with the Earth in just a few weeks. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, we won’t spoil your impression with spoilers and reveal plot twists and turns, but rather turn to the scientific side of the issue.

Our Moon is a solid, rocky body surrounded by a very thin layer of gas known as the exosphere. This natural satellite formed around the same time as Earth, about 4.5 billion years ago.

A widely held hypothesis suggests that the Moon emerged from rocky debris following a massive collision between a young Earth and a smaller protoplanet — a hypothetical object called Theia, according to NASA.

Another collision hypothesis suggests that both the Moon and Earth were formed by the collision of two bodies, each five times the size of Mars.

What would we know about the satellite of the Earth

The Moon is located at a distance of about 385,000 kilometers from the Earth and is four times smaller than our home planet. If you take an ordinary ruble coin and imagine that this is the Earth, then the Moon would be the size of a pea.

Photographs of the moon show that its surface is riddled with craters of various sizes, formed as a result of past impacts. But most of them were created billions of years ago, when much more debris swept through the solar system.

Most of the rocky debris that formed the planets that once filled the solar system has long since dissipated, “so the number of collisions is now significantly reduced – there is much less material that can collide with the Earth or the Moon,” astronomers assure in an interview with Live Science. .

According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects (CNEOS) website, the system identifies and tracks near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets to determine if they pose a threat to the Earth, the Moon, or our other space neighbors.

To date, CNEOS tracks about 28,000 NEOs – objects that approach Earth within 1.3 astronomical units (194.5 million km).

Will it fall or not?

In general, asteroid collisions with the Moon are much less likely than collisions with the Earth, because our planet is a more massive target with stronger gravity. Size also matters when scientists consider the risk associated with a flying asteroid.

For an NEO to be considered a threat to Earth, NASA says it must be at least 140 meters in diameter. And in order for a collision with an asteroid to affect the orbit of the Moon, the asteroid must be no smaller than the Moon itself.

“The moon is large, so it must be a huge object that must collide with it at high speed – the diameter of the asteroid must be several hundred kilometers.”

Fortunately for us (and for the Moon), none of the known asteroids in the solar system come close to the size of an Earth satellite.

According to NASA, the largest known asteroid is about 70 times smaller than the mass of the Moon and orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt at a distance of about 180 million kilometers from our planet.

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