New research suggests moon is millions of years older than once thought
Moon is older than previously thought
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Scientists now say lunar dust collected by Apollo 17 shows that the moon is millions of years older than previously thought.
The Guardian reports that researchers think they have found evidence to suggest the moon is more than 40 million years older than previously believed. A team of scientists looked at crystals found in lunar dust that were brought to Earth by astronauts in 1972 as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission.
According to CNN, a new sample analysis found zircon crystals dating back to 4.46 billion years ago. CNN reports that previous estimates put the moon, formed by a massive celestial collision, at 4.425 billion years old. The new findings were published on Monday in the journal Geochemical Perspectives Letters.
The study’s lead author Dr. Jennika Greer from the University of Glasgow told the Guardian, “It’s amazing being able to have proof that the rock you’re holding is the oldest bit of the moon we’ve found so far. It’s an anchor point for so many questions about the Earth. When you know how old something is, you can better understand what has happened to it in its history.”
The Guardian also reported that scientists think a Mars-sized body struck Earth approximately 100 million years after the formation of our solar system. The impact is thought to have ejected a huge mass of material that would eventually form the moon.
Senior study author Philipp Heck, a Robert A. Pritzker curator for meteoritics and polar studies at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said to CNN, “When the surface was molten like that, zircon crystals couldn’t form and survive. So any crystals on the Moon’s surface must have formed after this lunar magma ocean cooled. Otherwise, they would have been melted and their chemical signatures would be erased.”
Overall, the high energy generated by the impact meant the surface of the moon was initially molten. During the cooling process, crystals were formed that could be analyzed to help determine the age of the moon.
According to The Guardian, previous research has suggested the moon to be approximately 4.42 billion years old; however, crystals now may be evidence of an even older date – pushing the age of the moon back by 40 million years. The new information suggests a minimum formation age for the moon within 110 after the solar system was formed.