Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Parthenogenic Moon (A Bout of Sciento-Reverence)

"Birth of a Moon" (Europa, actually) found HERE.

Or should I say our parthenogenic Earth?

Parthenogenesis (from the Greek "παρθένος," parthenos/virgin & "γένεσις," genesis/origin), is the term applied to reproduction without fertilization, i.e., asexual reproduction. In parthenogenesis, an egg from the maternal source develops into a viable offspring without being fertilized by a spermatozoon.

I have always found parthenogenesis fascinating, particularly since when I was a child I was (mis)taught that it did not exist outside of plants & protists -- that it was a myth concocted by some poor, mistaken soul's misinterpretation of the origin of maggots. The truth is that some variation of parthenogenesis occurs in a wide variety of Earthly life forms; plants, protists, invertebrates, sharks, herpeptiles & domesticated poultry (chickens & turkeys). Parthenogenesis has also obviously been artificially induced in mammals through cloning & stem-cell experiments.

Ah, the Moon... where does She fit into this?

In recent years, the giant-collision scenario has been the favoured model for explaining our Moon's origins. Basically, this model suggests that our Moon comes from a two-parent merger; the proto-Earth & a hypothetical planetary body (aka impactor material) dubbed "Theia" came together (no doubt a bit violently) with the pleasant end result of our Moon's birth... (Theia & Gaia... that gives me pause to wonder -- on so many levels -- but that is not the focus here & it certainly is not parthenogenesis.)

However, a very ambitious graduate student at the University of Chicago has been doing some revealing paternity testing on the Lady's Moon-stuff brought back by the Apollo lunar expedition:
"Analyses of lunar samples reveal isotopic homogeneity in titanium, a highly refractory element, suggesting lunar material was derived predominantly from the mantle of the proto-Earth." -- Nature Geoscience
Put simply, the paper, The proto-Earth as a significant source of lunar material (Zhang, et. al.), published in Nature Geoscience on March 25, suggests that the material collected from the Moon has only one origin: the Earth. In the words of one of Ms. Zhang's co-authors, Dr. Nicholas Dauphas:
What we found is that the child does not look any different compared to the Earth. It’s a child with only one parent, as far as we can tell.” -- EarthSky
The mechanics of this single-parent birth remains a mystery.

I am humming with Sciento-awe! With every new discovery, She only gets better, no? Pardon me a moment while I meander into dubious territory, but given this explanation, is there any mystery about the connection we feel to this Lady-Earth-Moon-Clone? 

Looks like She just might be a parthenogenic babe of epic proportions & really, how awesome is that?

Addendum: If you are interested in reading more about this but find the technical language at Nature mind-numbing, there is an excellent article at EarthSky: Titanium paternity test fingers Earth as moon’s sole parent


Carol Vandelaar said...

Its no wonder we feel the love :) Truly AWESOME.

*heading over to read article....*

Moma Fauna said...

I realize that I should have added a link to a more "reader-freinly" article, so I'll make that edit. There is an article @ EarthSky which is where I got the second quote... probably should have cited that in the first place.

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