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.
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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