Monday, May 23, 2016

The Moon Guards Her Secrets: Part IV

How the Moon Created Life on Earth

[This week I'm including a few Sci-Fi Romance offerings that have the Moon as a setting in at least part of the story. See the links at the end of this blog.]

Last week, we looked at the continuing theories on the Moon's formation and the influence of Earth in the processes. But the Moon has affected Earth's processes just as dramatically. The Moon may very well be responsible for life on Earth.

How?

First let's look at how--and when--life began on Earth. Prior to recent discoveries, scientists believed simple life forms first appeared on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago, after the major bombardment of the Moon that caused its massive craters. New evidence shows that life on Earth happened "almost instantaneously" or at about 4.1 billion years ago, not long after the Theia collision that formed the Moon.

Photo credit NASA
That far back in time, as discussed in last week's blog, the Moon was much closer to Earth. After having recently been formed by debris from an impact between planet Theia (which was destroyed in the cataclysm) and Earth, the Moon may have been orbiting as close as 20,000 miles away, and would have appear 80 times larger in the sky than it does today!

The proximity of the Moon to Earth created ginormous tides--miles high!--and great tsunamis that were the result of Earth's oceans being drawn up toward the Moon and then released to slosh around on our planet's surface.

These monster tides created quiet tidal pools on land, safe zones from the violence of the seas where evaporation could have created thick concentrations of chemicals in the water, a thickening of the "primordial soup." These complex organic compounds, which included amino acids, may have formed life. This is known as Darwin's "warm little pond" theory.

There are other theories, of course. Life-generating compounds may have been carried to Earth from elsewhere on comets or asteroids. Or life may have developed in other areas on Earth, such as volcanic vents deep on the ocean floor.

We don't really know how life first formed, but science has proven that Darwin's Warm Little Pond theory is the least problematic, and that theory may have relied on the Moon's influence to create those warm little ponds.

So the Moon, indeed, may be responsible for life being here at all.

But the Moon's role didn't end merely with the formation of life. Over billions of years, the Moon created stability to Earth's axis, because a large moon can do this, making the seasons regular. Without the Moon, Earth may have met the same fate as Mars, an unstable tilt that caused the equators to cool and poles to warm, thus inhibiting the temperate climate that helps life--and the vegetation that life relies on--to flourish. It could result in dramatic climate changes. Ice Ages could even have come and gone like seasons, making the evolution of culture and society much more difficult. (Winter is coming.)

This has taught us something important. In our search for exoplanets, or alternate Earths, and the possibility of intelligent alien life inhabiting them--look for big moons!

There's no doubt that the Moon has had a huge impact on life on Earth. But are large moons required for the development of life elsewhere in the galaxy? Probably not.


As mentioned above, I'm including a few stories with the Moon as a location. Here are some SFR offerings that take place at least partly on the Moon. (Click the title to read more about it.)

Moonlight by Aeon Igni (novelette) involves characters who work at a mining operation on the Moon.

Mako's Bounty by Diane Dooley starts out on Lunar Base before moving to Earth.

Grand Master's Game by Aurora Springer, involves an alien attack on Moon Station before moving to other points in the galaxy.

And here's a fun blog by author Carol Van Atta entitled:
SF Thought Experiment: Fun With Total Eclipses


Next week:

The Moon Guards Her Secrets Part V
Death of the Moon

Resources:
How the Universe Works: Secret History of the Moon, Science Channel S4/E6 (2015)
IBTimes.com: When Did Life Begin on Earth? 300M Yrs Earlier Than Previously Thought...
ScienceClarified.Com: Did Life on Earth Begin in a "Warm Little Pond?"
Space.com: Earth's Stabilizing Force may be Unique in Universe

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2 comments:

  1. I was happy to find a few that featured the Moon as a setting, Aurora. Thanks for stopping by Spacefreighters.

    ReplyDelete

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