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Moon Space Science

Moon Younger Than Previously Thought 212

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-a-day-over-4-billion dept.
TaeKwonDood writes "Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed. Researchers say that the findings allow for one of two possibilities: the moon is 200 million years younger than previously thought, or the theory that the moon used to be a molten ocean is wrong."
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Moon Younger Than Previously Thought

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  • Or... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:23PM (#37124476)

    God just made it that way. He's God. He's makes moons however he wants.

    • God just made it that way. He's makes moons however he wants.

      Exactly. So why do religious fundamentalists think it's wrong to shoot a rocket at these moons? After all, God himself made the moons such they want a rocket!

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:26PM (#37124498) Homepage

    Please, no "that's no moon" jokes this time. It's getting old. Not as old as previously thought, but still damn old.

  • That's not the only thing that turns out to be younger than you thought.
  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:36PM (#37124550)

    TFA says: Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected," says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.

    Come on /., doesn't anybody verify facts / articles anymore ??

    • by CPNABEND (742114)
      You're kidding right? This is /.
    • by Gerzel (240421)

      It is still a single finding. Intereseting. Worth reconsidering theory, but also not something to be taken as gospel just yet.

      Really, we'd need to do cross examination of other moon rocks to see if they too are younger. And even then you'd have a relatively small sample set unless you actually go back and do a larger geographic survey of the moon taking samples from a variety of locations on and under its surface around many coordinates.

    • Not obvious, but the 200 million figure wasn't plucked from thin air. From deep in the article:

      The team analysed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon’s age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years.

      The difference in those figures gives us the number quoted in the summary. So, while this team apparently didn't th

  • Shouldn't all of the moon matter (silicon, magnesium, iron, etc.) be just as old as earth components from the previous supernova and nebula that created the solar system anyway? Most matter is fused within seconds of solar implosion and explosion. Since it is still taking meteor impacts, we could say it is perpetually new if it is a matter of age in that regard.
    • Re:Same material? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vbraga (228124) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @07:17PM (#37124816) Journal

      It's not about atoms. It's about how solids are created. If you take a steel allow and look at it using a metallurgical microscope you can see it's made of many really small crystals (grains). How the atoms are organized into those grains is a function of many things, including the cooling rate. So, the scientists probably looked into the rock micro structure (the grains) and calculated a cooling rate for them. I didn't read the article but many, many, many years ago as a metallurgy student I had an interest into iron meteorites.

      • by vbraga (228124)

        s/allow/alloy

      • Crystallization causes a zeroing of the isotopic clock. In other words, if a crystal of all potassium is formed, it will contain some potassium-40 isotopes, but no argon-40. This is used to determine when the rock was initially formed. As time passes, potassium-40 decays into argon-40 with a half life of 1.3 billion years. So, if a crystal contains a 1:1 ratio, or 50% (1 half life) potassium-40 to argon-40, the rock was formed 1.3 billion years ago. If it is 25% potassium-40 to 75% argon-40, the rock

        • Correction, I meant to say 2.6 in the case of 25% to 75%.

        • by vbraga (228124)

          I wasn't really thinking about radiometric dating. Just a estimate for cooling time from micro structure cooling rates. It's reasonable for meteorites since you can often find micro-structures that are characteristic to low gravity environments (I'm no longer able to name them, I took this a side interest in the earlier years of college (metallurgical engineering) and later gave it up for computing) and date them from the cooling rates. If I more or less recall correctly you can also estimate the time for t

    • Re:Same material? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @07:28PM (#37124888) Homepage Journal

      Well, some lighter elements can be converted to other elements as a result of being bombarded by cosmic rays (it's one of the methods of telling how long rocks have been exposed to the surface on the Earth, as you can't exactly radiocarbondate rock). So stuff that's on the surface of the moon - even stuff that's nominally been there for 4 billion years - may not be the same as it was 4 billion years ago.

      Compounds are more complicated. The updated theory for the moon's formation is that it is the gelling together of two smaller moons that formed when the Earth was struck by a planetoid about the size of Mars. Anything that dates back to the original two smaller moons will clearly be older than that material which formed due to the energy of the collision. Further, as smaller masses radiate heat faster than larger masses and the two original moons are theorized to have been different sizes, rocks from the larger original moon will show a younger age from rocks from the smaller original moon.

      And, yes, there have been plenty of impacts from space debris. One was so massive that observers on Earth recorded that the moon appeared to have horns. Since that was in historic times, we can assume that similar-sized collisions have happened in times before observers. Energies large enough to create light visible from Earth are going to be great enough to change the date of the rock in the area.

      Then there's another complication. Rock is not just one super-crystal but a solidified soup of many compounds - and, in some cases, a solidified mix of distinct rocks that got cemented together. The age of the compounds may be very different from the time of solidification. (Mudstone, for example, isn't considered as old as the mud from which it formed.)

      Obviously, NASA isn't stupid. They are going to make sure that they use appropriate methods. After all, the wrong method would be just like mixing feet and meters, or wiring a magnetic sensor upside-down. (Seriously, even though they have done some stupid things, they probably are using the correct method here. However, because of the update to the theory on the moon's formation - having two precursor moons of different age colliding at slow speed, I am not necessarily convinced by their interpretation. I am not convinced the theorists are communicating as well as they need to.)

      • And, yes, there have been plenty of impacts from space debris. One was so massive that observers on Earth recorded that the moon appeared to have horns.

        I've never heard of that. What event was this? When?

    • by sshir (623215)
      It works like this: radioactive shit spontaneously decays. When lava is molten - all gets mixed up. But when lava cools down and solidifies products of decay have no place to go and get trapped in the lattice. So by counting isotopes you can estimate how long ago stuff became solid.
  • by ETEQ (519425) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:41PM (#37124600)

    From the article:

    The team analysed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon’s age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years.

    So when they say 200 million years younger, that means 4.3 byr instead of 4.5 byr. I'm sure this is interesting to those in the field, but I don't think that counts as "much younger".

    • by jd (1658)

      Ok, that's a useful piece of information, but I want to know the margin of error on their measurements and the significance level (the sigma) - ie: how likely this measurement occurred by chance alone. If the sum total of uncertainty means the result is +/- 200 million years or more, then they're not really saying what they seem to be saying at all. This is my biggest gripe with these kinds of announcements - they often miss off these two critical values, usually because in the modern academic marketplace i

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's because of all of the sun exposure.

  • We all know it was created just a few thousand years ago on day 4.

    NASA could have saved the trip if they'd just asked the local priest!

    • We all know it was created just a few thousand years ago on day 4.

      NASA could have saved the trip if they'd just asked the local priest!

      Pastor, not "priest". The Roman Catholic Church is much more friendly to the idea of a non-literal creation (from a Biblical perspective) than many popular Protestant groups.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        We all know it was created just a few thousand years ago on day 4.

        NASA could have saved the trip if they'd just asked the local priest!

        Pastor, not "priest". The Roman Catholic Church is much more friendly to the idea of a non-literal creation (from a Biblical perspective) than many popular Protestant groups.

        I was raised in a Protestant household. I now lead a Protestant household (Baptist). I've been to several churches, camps, meetings, and various gatherings. I have never, ever met a preacher or other leader that believed the EarthSunMoonStars were 6000 years old. Now, I'm sure that these people exist and use religion as their reasoning, but there are nutjobs in every group. Saying that because of the occasional nutjob believes it, all or most must believe the same thing is no different that saying beca

        • I said, if you read my comment, "many popular Protestant groups". I never said that all Protestants, even most Protestants, believe in Creationism. And "a few nutjobs" is a bit of an understatement considering how many people are Creationists in the United States alone.

        • I was raised in a Protestant household. I now lead a Protestant household (Baptist). I've been to several churches, camps, meetings, and various gatherings. I have never, ever met a preacher or other leader that believed the EarthSunMoonStars were 6000 years old. Now, I'm sure that these people exist and use religion as their reasoning, but there are nutjobs in every group. Saying that because of the occasional nutjob believes it, all or most must believe the same thing is no different that saying because the occasional Muslim wants to kill all humans then all Muslims want to kill all humans.

          HERE [go.com]. Would it be fair for me to say that many NASA scientists are spies? Of course not. Then why is it fair for you to stereotype any other group based on a few nutjobs who mental illness is in no way related to whatever group you are using them to belittle?

          Unfortunately it looks like you need to have a talk with some of your co-religionists [gallup.com].

      • by xMrFishx (1956084)

        Pastor, not "priest". The Roman Catholic Church is much more friendly to the idea of a non-literal creation (from a Biblical perspective) than many popular Protestant groups.

        To a given value of $more.

        • By "much more friendly", I meant that they certainly don't believe that Genesis should be interpreted literally and that good, accurate science is the way to go. That's pretty anti-Creationism right there.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Priest is an English word - that Catholics use it is a title doesn't change that Judaism , Christianity, Hinduism, and lots of other religions have priests.

        • Ah... good point. I almost forgot that. Thanks for correcting me!

        • by metacell (523607)

          Also, some protestant churches in Europe also use the term "priest". I know the Church of Sweden (former State Church of Sweden) does.

  • Uniform composition? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by denshao2 (1515775) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @07:29PM (#37124898) Homepage Journal
    It is my understanding that the surface is composed of meteorites that hit long after the core formed. Dating the surface should not give you the age of the moon as a whole unless it's uniform in composition. If you do the same to date the Earth, then creationists will have plenty more fuel to support their story.
  • he doesnt [wikipedia.org] look anywhere near 200 million years old.

  • The nutcase Young Earth Creationalists over at Conservapedia [conservapedia.com] will be happy! Too bad we couldn't prove it was 6,000 years old, but don't worry, science is always eventually wrong so eventually someone will prove it's as young as we say!

  • Please change "use to be" to "used to be".
  • According to the soil sample I was provided, I believe there is truth to the fact that the cow really DID jump over the moon.

  • Well, old Qfwfq was right.

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