Public lecture - New Perspective on the Origin of the Moon

Professor Kun Wang, Washington University

The lecture is sponsored by the St. Louis Astronomical Society


Abstract:  The Moon has always intrigued humankind. Many myths, theories, and hypotheses have emerged throughout history to explain its origin; however, until 1970s there were neither adequate tools nor direct samples to test these hypotheses. Thanks to the return of lunar samples via NASA’s Apollo missions, the revolutionary “Giant Impact” theory was proposed and gradually received full acceptance. It was believed that the question of lunar formation had finally been answered. However, in the past decade, ultra-high precision isotopic analyses of lunar samples have begun contradicting some predictions of the “Giant Impact” theory, challenging the canonical view of the formation of the Moon. We are in the midst of a crisis, an “isotopic crisis" regarding the origin of the Moon. 


To solve this, we must re-evaluate our measured evidence and test new perspectives on the origin of the Moon. I will tackle this problem and address this crisis using innovative tracers of moderately volatile elements (such as K, Zn, and Cu). These elements are susceptible to evaporation and condensation during impact events of different scales. In this talk, I will use these moderately volatile tracers to test the various scenarios of the Moon-forming Giant Impact theories.



Kun Wang is an assistant professor of geochemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior his position at Washington University, he was the Origins of Life Initiative Fellow at Harvard University. He came to the US from China in 2009 and received his Ph.D. degree at Washington University. His research is focused on cosmochemistry and primitive and differentiated meteorites to understand the initial physical and chemical conditions during the formation and differentiation of solar system and terrestrial planets.


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