Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that we may have been wrong about the age of the Moon.
It is commonly accepted that the Moon was created by the impact of a large planet-like object and our proto-Earth very early in the evolution of our solar system. The energy of this impact was sufficiently high that the Moon formed from melted material that began with a deep liquid magma ocean. As the Moon cooled, this magma ocean solidified into different mineral components, the lightest of which floated upwards to form the oldest crust. Analysis of a lunar rock sample of this presumed ancient crust has given scientists new insights into the formation of the Moon.
According to the existing theory for lunar formation, a rock type called ferroan anorthosite, also known as FAN, is the oldest of the Moon’s crustal rocks, but scientists have had difficulty dating samples of this crust.
A new analysis has more accurately determined the age of the sample of a FAN that was returned by the Apollo 16 mission and has been stored at the lunar rock collection at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
Ferroan anorthosite FROM Apollo 16 mission. Credit: University of Copenhagen
"Although the samples have been carefully stored at NASA Johnson Space Center since their return to Earth, we had to extensively pre-clean the samples using a new method to remove terrestrial lead contamination. Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected," says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.
The team analyzed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon’s age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years. The new, younger age obtained for the oldest lunar crust is similar to ages obtained for the oldest terrestrial minerals - zircons from Western Australia - suggesting that the oldest crust on both Earth and the Moon formed at approximately the same time.
This study is the first in which a single sample of FAN yielded consistent ages from multiple isotope dating techniques. This result strongly suggests that these ages pinpoint the time at which this sample crystallized. The extraordinarily young age of this lunar sample either means that the Moon solidified significantly later than previous estimates – and therefore the moon itself is much younger than previously believed - or that this sample does not represent a crystallization product of the original magma ocean. Either scenario requires major revision to previous models for the formation of the Moon.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine
- Swarm Bots Kill Mass Shooter
- Can A New Rule Trigger A Second EU Referendum? Petition 4 Millon Signatures, Nearly 12% Of Total Votes Cast
- Nanotech: The Most Dangerous Science Least Carefully Done
- A Billion Years Ago, What Did Earth's Ancient Magnetic Field Look Like?
- Finding All-Hadronic Top - Again
- How A Woman With Amnesia Defies Conventional Wisdom About Memory
- "Sorry, but even using the term allopath shows your bias. That is a term invented by the creator..."
- "Lets make something clear- most of you are arguing past each other on topics that are too broad..."
- "Hi Anlain, it explains on the page itself. It's a post vote survey - not a poll, so more accurate..."
- "If british elections and referenda are supposed to be secret ballots,how can statistics like those..."
- "If you really wanted to know the truth you could find many researched and peer reviewed articles..."
- DIY Biohacking: Unethical, Fringe, and Probably Necessary To Advance Science
- Summer Camp Means Fun for Kids, But Panic for Some Parents
- Swayed By Lunch Money: A Grotesque Insult to Doctors
- Sensing Too Much Zika Exposure, Golfers Continue Olympic Exodus
- Cannabis Beverages: A New Way to Get High
- Got Zika? Thank an Environmentalist
- Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer's proteins from brain cells
- NIH-supported study pinpoints origin of 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic
- The July 2016 issue of Geology is now online
- At the droplet of a hat: Capturing mixable liquid interaction
- Triple external quantum efficiencies -- a new material TADF was developed