Where did the Moon come from? Its a question even a child can ask, but until recently scientists could not agree on an answer. Some proposed that the Moon ripped itself loose from a rapidly spinning Earth, perhaps leaving behind a scar later filled in by the Pacific Ocean. Others theorized that it wandered in from some other place in the solar system or even beyond, and was captured by Earths gravity. Or, perhaps, the Moon simply formed in tandem with Earth, out of the same cloud of cosmic gas and dust. Yet none of these theories could be reconciled with the hard evidence gathered by the Apollo astronauts.
For the first time, this book relates for a general audience how lunar scientists arrived at a theory of the Moons birth that fits all the available facts. Travel backwards in time with science journalist Dana Mackenzie, from the slopes where the astronauts collected their Moon rocks to the ocean of magma from which those rocks crystallized and finally all the way back to the world-shaking collision that created the Moon four-and-a-half billion years ago. This collision, the Big Splat, destroyed one planet and forever changed our ownperhaps even creating the conditions in which life could evolve.
Along the way, Mackenzie explains how, over the centuries, humans have changed their own views of the Moon. He relates the fascinating history of lunar speculation, moving from such titans of science as Galileo and Kepler to less-famous luminaries such as George Darwin (son of Charles) to rogue scientists such as turn-of-the-century astronomer Thomas Jefferson Jackson See. He explains how lunar studies eventually fell into disrepute, with scientists very nearly becoming indifferent to the Moons originuntil the 1960s. Mackenzie rockets the reader through the urgency and controversy that surrounded the space program, and salutes the accomplishments of the Apollo astronauts. In spite of the belief among some Apollo-era scientists that unmanned missions could have done the job just as well, Mackenzie shows how it took an intuitive, human touch to solve one of the Moons great mysteries. It also took a revolution in the way that scientists think about the universe, signaled by the emergence in the 1970s of chaos theory, and the notion that catastrophes can befall our nearest neighbors in the solar system.
The Big Splat will forever change the way you look at the moon.