For years scientists have been studying earth's closest celestial body, the moon. However, a recent study has indicated that the moon is about 40 million years older than previously believed. To discover the moon's age, researchers studied samples brought to earth by the Apollo astronauts in the year 1970s. The fresh research carried out at the Field Museum and the University of Glasgow shed new light, revealing that the moon is 4.46 billion years old, rather than 4.52 billion years old which was previously believed. The study was published in the journal geochemical perspectives letters.
In a conversation with the Guardian, Dr Jennika Greer of the University of Glasgow said, "It is incredible to have proof that the rock you are holding is the oldest moon piece we have discovered until now. It serves as an anchor point for so many earth-related questions. Understanding how old something is allows you to better learn what has happened to it in its history."
New approach leads to discovery
The discovery was made possible with atom probe tomography, a new approach that involves using a laser to evaporate atoms from crystals that have been honed to an extremely fine 'nano tip.'
With the atom-by-atom study, researchers were able to count how many atoms in the moon's crystals have experienced radioactive decay. Scientists believe that knowing the exact age of the moon will help them better learn its history and evolution, along with earth.
In its report, Philipp Heck, a professor at the University of Chicago, said, "Life on earth would look different without the moon." Further, Heck said that the moon is part of our natural system that they want to better understand and their study provides a tiny puzzle piece in that whole picture.
About prevailing theory
The widely accepted theory regarding the moon's formation is the giant-impact hypothesis that indicates at some point in earth's very early history, the two bodies collided. The resulting material that blasted out, bounded by its own gravity, eventually formed the moon as we know it today. However, it is still unknown when this collision happened and how long it took for the moon to form.
Why learning the moon's age is crucial
Understanding the age of the moon is not merely a scientific curiosity. The age of the moon is essential as it aids in stabilizing the earth's rotational axis, which results in 24 hours and also, manages the tides. Moon's existence is crucial in our planetary system. Without the moon's presence, life on earth would be significantly different. Thus, discovering the moon's history gives us a better understanding of our natural globe.