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Watch 4.5 Billion Years of the Moon’s Evolution in 2.5 Minutes

Over time, our Moon has changed from a glowing ball of magma, to being pummeled and pounded by impacts, to evolving to the current constant companion we see in the sky each night. With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we’re getting a better understanding of just what has taken place on the Moon over its history. Thanks to the folks at Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio, this video provides a look at 4.5 billion years of the Moon in just two and a half minutes.


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hematite March 14, 2012, 10:30 PM

    Man, it sucks to be the moon!

    But seriously, I think that they kinda chickened out by not showing the formation stage.

  • Chris March 14, 2012, 10:50 PM

    What happened to the collision between the Earth and the asteroid which begat the moon? Or is that now a disproved theory?

    • Torbjörn Larsson March 15, 2012, 7:34 AM

      Not at all, that fact seems strengthened at every test. As I understand it, the video wanted to highlight the LRO results, and it starts out with a newly formed Moon.

      Albeit some datings may push the Moon formation towards 4.3 billion years before present, close to the Aitken basin formation.

  • Joe House March 14, 2012, 11:10 PM

    Yes, I was wondering what happened to proto-earth and the other big ball collision? I supposed it could have predated what we just saw.

  • Uncle_Fred March 14, 2012, 11:23 PM

    Hey NASA, space doesn’t have air! Why am I hearing impacts?

    I wish NASA would stop adding this just because it sounds cool. Sticking to the science lets people ask questions.

    Speaking of questions: The moon was not under constant bombardment in it’s early life? One would have thought that the early solar system would have a lot more impact events then more recent times.

    • AnthC March 15, 2012, 1:08 AM

      Point well taken. However, NASA is in a tough spot. More than ever, given the economic and budgetary restraints, NASA has to “sell” astronomy and planetary science to the general public. Videos like these, while not technically accurate, probably serve their purpose well. It’s a judgment call.

    • Torbjörn Larsson March 15, 2012, 7:38 AM

      This is annoying all the way around. Some people are annoyed by sounds “in space”, I am annoyed by the commenting (sorry, but it had to be said) which doesn’t take into account that a spectator vision is always a construct. You may imagine the sounds as picked up from within the impacted Moon if you wish.

      And what odd tour schedule placed an orchestra in space!? That is never asked, seems like.

      • squidgeny March 15, 2012, 1:21 PM

        That’s how I see it too – this isn’t supposed to be precisely realistic; it’s supposed to be the video equivalent of an infographic: informative. The sounds help with ‘describing’ the size of the impacts (and why not?).

        If it were supposed to be accurate, then it would have to take into account the phases of the moon and the positions of the stars – in this video, a new moon (and a complete rotation of the celestial sphere) would occur about 500 million times a second, well above the frame rate of the video. Individual impacts would be even less visible!

  • Hematite March 15, 2012, 12:34 AM

    Uncle Fred,

    I agree; it wasn’t that well done.

    On the other hand, the “Tour of the Moon” that was released with this vid (see Phyorg.com) was rather good.

  • wjwbudro March 15, 2012, 2:20 AM

    Haven’t heard anyone else comment on the disappearance of the “recent comment” list. Is it just me?

    • Torbjörn Larsson March 15, 2012, 8:17 AM

      Me too. Firefox upgrades seems to have recurrent problem with Disqus sites, maybe that is that this time too.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE March 15, 2012, 3:06 PM

        It’s the same for this Google Chrome user.

        • squidgeny March 15, 2012, 4:23 PM

          Ditto, but I suspect it’s part of the same re-design which removed all the ads and stuff down the left-hand side (much better by the way, if a little difficult to get used to – feels lop-sided!)

          • wjwbudro March 15, 2012, 6:18 PM

            Wonder why Fraser hasn’t offered a response?

          • wjwbudro March 15, 2012, 7:43 PM

            Seems Disqus now requires 3rd party cookies be enabled, WHY? Bad enough primary site cookies have to be enabled; even your financial sites require it. We’ve pissed away our privacy rights. Anyway did that and turned off ad-blocking and allowed “all” scripts and still no “recent comments” list.

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE March 15, 2012, 3:05 PM

      No, it’s not just you.

  • SJStar March 15, 2012, 2:58 AM

    The beginning is just a direct rip off of “2001 : A Space Odyssey.”

    Even the fonts are similar as is the music.

    Also, I thought the Moon was created by a fragmentation of a collision with a Mars-sized body with the Earth? Why is that bit missing?

    • squidgeny March 15, 2012, 1:23 PM

      The video is about the moon’s evolution, not its creation. That’s why it starts out as a ball of molten rock, just after the collision/fragmentation event.

      Would have been nice if they had included it, but it’s not “missing” – just omitted.

  • HaniD March 15, 2012, 11:06 AM

    The origin of the moon when it was made of fire ( volcanos in particular) was mentioned in the Quran ( the holly book of muslims) when Allah said :” We made the nignt and day two signs, but erased the sign of night ( the moon)and left the sign of the day( the sun) glowing”.
    Quran 17 / 12

    • squidgeny March 15, 2012, 1:29 PM


  • HaniD March 15, 2012, 11:09 AM

    Who taught Muhammad( the prophet of Islam) this information 1400 years ago?
    No doubt, he is Allah the Great God

  • Michael Davino March 15, 2012, 11:32 AM

    It’s artificial. It’s crust is just a cover up. If it’s from Nasa it’s definitely a lie and a cover up. Don’t believe it. The Moon is hollow and artificial and it always was. It’s 300,000 years older than the Earth and was purposely set in its orbit around us to promote life.

    • squidgeny March 15, 2012, 1:33 PM


  • Edward Roberts March 15, 2012, 10:48 PM

    I think what’s most annoying about the video are the long pauses between “events”…like some kind of celestial silence. Very misleading. I haven’t read back in the commentary, so my apologies if I’m repeating anyone! If they needed to compress the activities to make a better impact (sorry!) they should have faded to black between scenes and used a more informative time-lapse device, like a bar timeline at the bottom.

  • bugzzz March 16, 2012, 4:52 PM

    love it.