Dust samples from Apollo 17 mission disclose Moon's age, bust earlier theories

By analyzing lunar crystals retrieved during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, scientists have pushed back the moon's age to at least 4.46 billion years.

| Updated on: Oct 25 2023, 12:20 IST
Bad news! ISRO faces new threats for Chandrayaan-3 mission's Vikram lander and Pragyan rover
Moon's age
1/5 Chandrayaan-3 mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) ambitious lunar project in the form of the Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover, currently rest in a dormant state on the Moon's surface. This mission successfully landed on the Moon on August 23 and conducted numerous experiments. Now, both the lander and rover are in sleep mode from which ISRO is not being able to revive them. However, ISRO has not lost hope.  (ISRO)
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2/5 But now, according to a report by India Today, Chandrayaan-3 mission is facing new threats. These threats to Vikram and Pragyan stem from the dangerous micrometeoroid impacts. A senior ISRO official explained that these tiny particles constantly bombard the lunar surface and pose a risk to the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover. While the Moon's lack of atmosphere and oxygen prevents corrosion, the potential damage from these impacts and the extreme cold during the lunar night is a concern. (ISRO)
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3/5 Additionally, the absence of an atmosphere on the Moon exposes the spacecraft to constant radiation bombardment from the Sun, potentially causing damage over time. (ISRO)
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4/5 Despite these threats, ISRO scientists are happy with the mission's performance. Chandrayaan-3's objectives were to explore the lunar south polar region, known for its water ice reserves. The rover's discovery of sulfur on the lunar surface near the South Pole is significant, and it also detected various other elements, expanding our knowledge of the Moon's composition. (ISRO)
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5/5 The mission's seismic activity measurements and the sulfur discovery have offered valuable insights into the Moon's geological processes. The Vikram lander's hop experiment on the Moon, which lifted off and landed nearby, showcased the potential for future missions to return lunar samples. Chandrayaan-3's data collection has not only advanced our understanding of the Moon but also paved the way for forthcoming lunar and interplanetary expeditions. (ISRO)
Moon's age
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As per the research, the key to this recent discovery lies in zircon crystals found in the Moon dust collected by Apollo astronauts. (Pexels)

Have you ever wondered when the Moon was formed? Well, we still don't know the exact answer to how old the Moon is. However, some researchers have recently determined the age of the lunar dust samples from NASA's Apollo 17 mission that may well have revealed the age of the Moon and it has busted some old theories. Know what the recent research reveals:

What is the age of our Moon?

More than 4 billion years ago, in the early stages of our solar system, a Mars-sized object collided with Earth, leading to the formation of our Moon, according to a widely followed theory. The exact timing of this celestial collision has long been a subject of scientific intrigue. However, a groundbreaking study published in the journal Geochemical Perspectives Letters, led by researchers from the University of Chicago and the Field Museum, sheds new light on the moon's age. By analyzing lunar crystals retrieved during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, scientists have pushed back the moon's age to at least 4.46 billion years.

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According to a report by UChicago News, the key to this recent discovery lies in zircon crystals found in lunar dust collected by Apollo astronauts. These crystals, known as lunar zircon grains, offer a glimpse into the moon's history. They are the oldest known solids to have formed post-impact, making them crucial anchors for understanding the moon's chronology.

Dr. Philipp Heck, the Field Museum's Robert A. Pritzker Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies and a professor at the University of Chicago, commented on the significance of these lunar crystals, stating, "These crystals are the oldest known solids that formed after the giant impact. And because we know how old these crystals are, they serve as an anchor for the lunar chronology."

To determine the age of these lunar zircon crystals, researchers employed a cutting-edge analytical technique called atom probe tomography. This method involved sharpening a lunar sample into a sharp tip and using UV lasers to evaporate atoms from its surface. The mass spectrometer then measured the speed of these atoms, providing insight into their composition. Crucially, it revealed how many atoms within the zircon crystals had undergone radioactive decay. As unstable atoms decay over time, their composition changes, which allows scientists to calculate the age of the crystals.

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First Published Date: 25 Oct, 11:56 IST