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Catastrophe — and rebirth — on your desktop

This simulation of the impact that formed the Earth-Moon pair was developed by Robin Canup (Southwest Research Institute) and Erik Asphaug (University of California, Santa Cruz) in 2001. In the simulation, the smaller body impacting Earth is the size of Mars. It strikes Earth obliquely, speeding its rotation. (By the end of the simulation, Earth has a 5-hour day.)In the collision's aftermath, most of the impactor ends up accreting into Earth. But part of it flies off in a cloud of debris that or...

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