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

by Nancy Atkinson on March 14, 2012

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Over time, our Moon has been 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 Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Hematite March 14, 2012 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 was rather good.

wjwbudro March 15, 2012 at 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 at 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 at 3:06 PM

It’s the same for this Google Chrome user.

squidgeny March 15, 2012 at 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 at 6:18 PM

Wonder why Fraser hasn’t offered a response?

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE March 15, 2012 at 3:05 PM

No, it’s not just you.

SJStar March 15, 2012 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 1:29 PM


HaniD March 15, 2012 at 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 at 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 at 1:33 PM


Edward Roberts March 15, 2012 at 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 at 4:52 PM

love it.

wjwbudro March 15, 2012 at 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.

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