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STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists argue that the moon is older than everyone previously believed. For decades, researchers thought that the moon, the only natural satellite of Terra, was approximately 4.5 billion years old. Based on the new theory, the moon formed due to a fiery catastrophe which was produced by a clash between the Earth and another celestial object known as Theia about a hundred million years after the formation of our planet.
According to the new study conducted by researchers at UCLA, the estimated age of the moon might have hidden an error of about 40 to 140 million years. These scientists from UCLA have re-analyzed some of the moon rocks collected by Apollo. The new data revealed might have a significant impact on our perception of the solar system, but also of the formation and evolution of its planets.
The study called “Early formation of the Moon 4.51 billion years ago” was recently published in the Science Advances magazine. The research was conducted by Melanie Barboni, a professor from the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA. She guided the team of researchers which employed several tests including uranium-lead dating on rocks collected by the astronauts on Apollo 14.
The fragments were composed out of zircon which represents a type of silicate mineral containing traces of radioactive elements such as lutetium, thorium, uranium. Kevin McKeegan, a professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry at UCLA, explained that zircons are considered the best clocks that nature could design. They represent a class of mineral which is bound to preserve geological history, revealing their origin.
The research team managed to accurately estimate the age of this zircon after analyzing the radioactive decay and correcting the exposure cosmic rays. These scientists used a mass spectrometer from UCLA to measure which was the rate of uranium deposits when the zircon transformed into lead and the lutetium deposits converted into hafnium.
The final result was that the moon might have formed approximately 4.51 billion years ago, placing its formation within the first sixty years of the solar system. In the past, dating moon rocks were problematic because most of these segments contained several types of stones. What is more, these samples were bound to be jeopardized by the effects of several impacts.
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