August 17, 2011

Moon Loses Millions Of Years After New Research

According to new research, the Earth's moon could be younger than previously thought.

The theory for lunar formation says that a rock known as ferroan anorthosite (FAN) is the oldest of the Moon's crustal rocks, but scientists have had difficulty dating FAN samples.

Researchers used newly refined techniques to determine the age of a sample of FAN from the lunar rock collection at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

They analyzed isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the FAN sample's age at 4.36 billion years.  This number is younger than previous estimates that said the Moon's age was at 4.568 billion years.

The new age obtained for the lunar crust is similar to ages obtained for the oldest terrestrial minerals, which suggests that the oldest crust on both Earth and Moon formed at about the same time.

The study is the first to in which a single sample of FAN yielded consistent ages from multiple isotope dating techniques.

"The extraordinarily young age of this lunar sample either means that the Moon solidified significantly later than previous estimates, or that we need to change our entire understanding of the Moon's geochemical history," Richard Carlson of Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism said in a press release.

The work was published online in the journal Nature on August 17.

The international team of researchers was led by Lars E. Borg of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


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