The origin of the Moon's Earth-like tungsten isotopic composition from dynamical and geochemical modeling.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20266-1
The Earth and Moon have identical or very similar isotopic compositions for many elements, including tungsten. However, canonical models of the Moon-forming impact predict that the Moon should be made mostly of material from the impactor, Theia. Here we evaluate the probability of the Moon inheriting its Earth-like tungsten isotopes from Theia in the canonical giant impact scenario, using 242 N-body models of planetary accretion and tracking tungsten isotopic evolution, and find that this probability is <1.6-4.7%. Mixing in up to 30% terrestrial materials increases this probability, but it remains <10%. Achieving similarity in stable isotopes is also a low-probability outcome, and is controlled by different mechanisms than tungsten. The Moon's stable isotopes and tungsten isotopic composition are anticorrelated due to redox effects, lowering the joint probability to significantly less than 0.08-0.4%. We therefore conclude that alternate explanations for the Moon's isotopic composition are likely more plausible.