The moon

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 206–209 | Cite as

Origin of the moon by tidal capture and some geophysical consequences

  • S. Fred Singer


Of the many proposed modes of origin of the Moon, some violate physical laws; many are in conflict with observations; all are improbable. Perhaps the least improbable - based on recent tidal theory calculations and on the interpretation of lunar rock data - is capture of the Moon as it passed near the Earth in adirect (prograde) orbit, shortly after the formation of Moon and Earth, about 4.5 billion years ago. (Capture of the Moon from an initiallyretrograde orbit which had been proposed some years ago, leads to physically unacceptable consequences.) The effects of capture on the Earth would have been cataclysmic, leading to intensive heating of its interior, to volcanism, and to the immediate formation of an atmosphere and hydrosphere. Thus capture of a Moon may have given rise to the unique properties of the Earth (in the Solar System) and to the early evolution of life, about 3.5 billion years ago.


Atmosphere Solar System Early Evolution Unique Property Theory Calculation 
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Selected references

Fission Theory

  1. Wise, D. V.: 1969, ‘Origin of the Moon from the Earth: Some New Mechanisms and Comparisons’,J. Geophys. Res. 74, 6034.Google Scholar
  2. O'Keefe, J. A.: 1970, ‘The Origin of the Moon’,ibid. 75, 6565.Google Scholar

Precipitation Theory

  1. Ringwood, A. E.: 1970, ‘Origin of the Moon: The Precipitation Hypothesis’,Earth Planetary Sci. Letters 8, 131.Google Scholar

See also

  1. Singer, S. F.: 1971, ‘Discussion of Paper by A. E. Ringwood, “Petrogenesis of Apollo 11 Basalts and Implications for Lunar Origin”’,J. Geophys. Res. 76, 8071.Google Scholar
  2. Ringwood, A. E.: 1971, ‘Reply’,ibid. 76, 8075.Google Scholar
  3. Goldreich, P.: 1966, ‘History of the Lunar Orbit’,Rev. Geophys. 4, 411.Google Scholar

Capture Theory

  1. Gerstenkorn, H.: 1955, ‘Über Gezeitenreibung beim Zweikörperproblem’,Z. Astrophys. 36, 245.Google Scholar
  2. MacDonald, G. J. F.: 1964, ‘Tidal Friction’,Rev. Geophys. 2, 467.Google Scholar
  3. Singer, S. F.: 1968, ‘The Origin of the Moon and Geophysical Consequences’,Geophys. J. 15, 205.Google Scholar
  4. Alfvén, H.: 1963, ‘The Early History of the Moon and the Earth’,Icarus 1, 357.Google Scholar
  5. Cloud, P. E., Jr.: 1968, ‘Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Evolution on the Primitive Earth’,Science 160, 729.Google Scholar
  6. Berkner, L. V. and Marshall, L. C.: 1965, ‘On the Origin and Rise of Oxygen Concentration in the Earth's Atmosphere’,J. Atmospheric Sci. 22, 225.Google Scholar
  7. Urey, H. C. and MacDonald, G. J. F.: 1971, ‘Origin and History of the Moon’, inPhysics and Astronomy of the Moon, 2nd ed., (ed. by Z. Kopal), Academic Press, New York, p. 213.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Fred Singer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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