Scientists had already known about this high-speed crash, which occurred almost 4.5 billion years ago, but many thought the Earth collided with Theia at an angle of 45 degrees or more - a powerful side-swipe.

The study substantially strengthens the case for a head-on assault, researchers said.
    
Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analysed seven rocks brought to the Earth from the Moon by the Apollo 12, 15 and 17 missions, as well as six volcanic rocks from the Earth's mantle - five from Hawaii and one from Arizona.
    
The key to reconstructing the giant impact was a chemical signature unveiled in the rocks' oxygen atoms. Oxygen makes up 90 percent of rocks' volume and 50 percent of their weight.
    
More than 99.9 percent of Earth's oxygen is O-16, so called because each atom contains eight protons and eight
neutrons.
    
Collisions of growing bodies occurred very frequently back then, he said, although Mars avoided large collisions.
    
The research was published in the journal Science.

 

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