Coupled orbital-thermal evolution of the early Earth-Moon system with a fast-spinning Earth

Zhen Liang Tian, Jack Wisdom, Linda Elkins-Tanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Several new scenarios of the Moon-forming giant impact have been proposed to reconcile the giant impact theory with the recent recognition of the volatile and refractory isotopic similarities between Moon and Earth. Two scenarios leave the post-impact Earth spinning much faster than what is inferred from the present Earth-Moon system's angular momentum. The evection resonance has been proposed to drain the excess angular momentum, but the lunar orbit stays at high orbital eccentricities for long periods in the resonance, which would cause large tidal heating in the Moon. A limit cycle related to the evection resonance has also been suggested as an alternative mechanism to reduce the angular momentum, which keeps the lunar orbit at much lower eccentricities, and operates in a wider range of parameters. In this study we use a coupled thermal-orbital model to determine the effect of the change of the Moon's thermal state on the Earth-Moon system's dynamical history. The evection resonance no longer drains angular momentum from the Earth-Moon system since the system rapidly exits the resonance. Whereas the limit cycle works robustly to drain as much angular momentum as in the non-thermally-coupled model, though the Moon's tidal properties change throughout the evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Moon
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Solid body tides
  • Thermal histories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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