Science news: how the moon was formed in a crash, what a new Pangea could mean, microbiological life in deep sea floors, ancient life on Mars below the surface

Screenshot of the formation of the Earth’s moon from a supercomputer simulation.

Recent discoveries about our planet, its rocks, and other “stone” topics

Supercomputer simulations show how the moon was formed in a crash of a Mars-sized ancient planet called Theia with the early Earth. The the researchers emphasize that it is not a definitive proof of the Moon’s origin, but it could be a promising stage to understand how our nearest neighbor in space might have formed.

How land could be distributed in the Aurica supercontinent (top) versus Amasia. The future land configurations are shown in gray, with modern-day outlines of the continents for comparison. Credit: Way et al. 2020
Long ago, all the continents were crammed together into one large land mass called Pangea, but they will reunite again in the deep future. A new study suggests that the future arrangement of this supercontinent could dramatically impact the habitability and climate stability of Earth. The findings also have implications for searching for life on other planets.

Co-chiefs Verena Heuer and Fumio Inagaki observe ocean floor drilling. Photo: JAM¬STEC/IODPThe sediments that lie deep below the ocean floor present a very harsh habitat. Temperature and pressure steadily increase with depth, while the energy supply becomes increasingly scarce. Scientists now discovered vegetative microbiological life in depths with up to a temperature of 120 degrees Celsius.

A vertically exaggerated, false-color view of a large, water-carved channel on Mars called Dao Vallis. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO. 3D rendered and colored by Lujendra OjhaThe most habitable region for life on Mars would have been up to several miles below its surface, likely due to subsurface melting of thick ice sheets fueled by geothermal heat when the sun was less powerful than it is today.

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