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Moon Earth Space Science

Scientists Calculate the Moon To Be 4.51 Billion Years Old (go.com) 140

Scientists used rocks and soil collected by the Apollo 14 moonwalkers in 1971 to calculate the age of the moon. It turns out that it is much older than scientists suspected, coming in at 4.51 billion years old. ABC News reports: A research team reported Wednesday that the moon formed within 60 million years of the birth of the solar system. Previous estimates ranged within 100 million years, all the way out to 200 million years after the solar system's creation, not quite 4.6 billion years ago. The scientists conducted uranium-lead dating on fragments of the mineral zircon extracted from Apollo 14 lunar samples. The pieces of zircon were minuscule -- no bigger than a grain of sand. The moon was created from debris knocked off from Earth, which itself is thought to be roughly 4.54 billion years old. Some of the eight zircon samples were used in a previous study, also conducted at UCLA, that utilized more limited techniques. Melanie Barboni, lead author of the study from the University of California, Los Angeles, said she is studying more zircons from Apollo 14 samples, but doesn't expect it to change her estimate of 4.51 billion years for the moon's age, possibly 4.52 billion years at the most. The study was published today in the journal Science.
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Scientists Calculate the Moon To Be 4.51 Billion Years Old

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  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:11AM (#53652343)

    Giant impact theory gets bonus points.

    • Actually, we've moved from glancing impact to head on kaboom.

    • Not really. As the terminal event in a hierarchical series of events, the GI could happen at pretty much any time in the development of the Solar system (or any other stellar planetary system). Indeed, there is at least one line of argument that the last "giant impact" in the history of the Earth has not yet happened. There's on the order of a 0.2% chance of Mercury impacting the Earth in the next 4 billion years (J. Laskar & M. Gastineau, "Existence of collisional trajectories of Mercury, Mars and Venu
  • This will probably get me downvoted as a troll but I've begun to drown out the following: 1. New Moon Formation/Age Theory 2. New Dinosaur Extinction Theory 3. New Asteroid On Possible Future Collision with Earth Estimations 4. New Solid State Physics Miracle that Promises Amazing Possibilities 100 Years in the Future. They just seem to disappear and are never heard from again or become part of the background noise of science.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fragnet ( 4224287 )
      I wouldn't mark you down but I disagree. Keep an open mind and remember that paradigms break and conventional wisdom is often wrong.
    • That's how science works. You observe, you try new theories, and most of them don't stand the test of time. Some, though, do. They get incorporated into our set of knowledge. That's what science is about. Creating a model that will explain what we found, until we create a better model that describes it better.

    • They just seem to disappear and are never heard from again or become part of the background noise of science.

      You crave surety.. And that is very hard to come by in matters scientific. Mainly because new evidence happens all the time.

      When humans need lack of change, that's what religion is for. Even though it too changes over time, it is a slow process, usually measured over lifetimes, so you can pick a religion, and stick with it come hell or high water.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This will probably get me downvoted as a troll but I've begun to drown out the following: 1. New Moon Formation/Age Theory 2. New Dinosaur Extinction Theory 3. New Asteroid On Possible Future Collision with Earth Estimations 4. New Solid State Physics Miracle that Promises Amazing Possibilities 100 Years in the Future. They just seem to disappear and are never heard from again or become part of the background noise of science.

      That's because science is boring.

      The actual paper's abstract is: "We present uran

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      Breakthroughs aren't "real", they're anomalies in a reality of incremental scientific advancement.

      Can't get clicks and eyeballs with that, so the headlines pretend EXCITING SHIT GOING DOWN YO.

      Your subconscious probably figured it all out already and said don't bother, it's a wise cynic that knows how money works.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is going to confuse the hell out of poor old Ken Ham

  • by demon driver ( 1046738 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:45AM (#53652429) Journal

    Couldn't the 4.6 billion years old stuff just have come from a 4.6 billion years old original source (say, Earth), while the moon still came into existence only, say, several hundred million years ago, having been formed out of something which perchance included that stuff?

    • Re:Stupid question (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:06AM (#53652467)

      Uranium-lead dating of zircon counts from the time the mineral (specifically, the zircon crystals) was formed - that is, the time the rock solidified. Any natural event which could get rocks from earth to orbit is going to involve such high energy that the material would certainly be melted. If the moon formed from slow accumulation, these are surface rocks and would still have been melted on impact. Either way, the radiometric clock starts ticking as soon as the material cools to the point of solidification.

      • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @04:33AM (#53652667)

        Trump wants to make gay marriage illegal, I expect he will make Uranium-lead dating illegal too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

        This also puts the age of both the earth and the moon at "when the first rocks formed", not "when the celestial body formed" which imho is when a significant amount of space debris, possibly molten, clumps together to form something resembling a planet. There's probably no way to really figure that one out.

        As the moon is supposedly formed from material from the earth, it could be argued to be the same age (it being from the same clump of material, plus some of the asteroid that caused the split - which in t

        • This also puts the age of both the earth and the moon at "when the first rocks formed", not "when the celestial body formed" which imho is when a significant amount of space debris, possibly molten, clumps together to form something resembling a planet. There's probably no way to really figure that one out.

          We bracket the ages. This sort of study gives us a minimum age for the formation of the object in question (the Moon must have formed before the rocks of its surface. However, in a proportion of meteorite

    • Re:Stupid question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Biogoly ( 2026888 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:12AM (#53652477)
      The radiometric dating is done on zircon mineral crystals. These crystals would form naturally after the molten rock of the early moon cooled...just like on earth. So the date of 4.51 billion years is the time the molten moon cooled and the zircon (which was ejected from earth in what must have been a massive collision) formed. The oldest rock on earth has zircon that is dated to 4.54 billion years ago.To quote wikipedia: "Zircon incorporates uranium and thorium atoms into its crystal structure, but strongly rejects lead. Therefore, one can assume that the entire lead content of the zircon is radiogenic, i.e. it is produced solely by a process of radioactive decay after the formation of the mineral. Thus the current ratio of lead to uranium in the mineral can be used to determine its age."
      • Some slight quibbles.

        (1) your comment sort-of implies that dating only uses zircons, and only uses the uranium-lead system, and only works for crystals with negligible initial lead. All of these are slightly misleading ; there are plenty of clocks other than uranium-lead ; crystals other than zircon can be used (and indeed, aggregates of multiple crystals can be dated as whole rocks) ; rocks with initial contents of the daughter element(s) in your clock(s) can be used with appropriate additional measuremen

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:35AM (#53652531)

    If it asks, I say it doesn't look a day over 4 billion. After all, the moon is a harsh mistress.

    • If you pay her enough she'll piss on your bed.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Only if you're buzzfeed, and get disavowed by every other media organization.

        • Is this a Trump-bashing session? I've not actually bothered to follow the orange-skinned small-handed buffoon's latest fuck up.

          But the important question is, did Buzzfeed get the eyeball-seconds and clicks they needed out of the story?

  • Wow! I'll sleep better at night!
  • I think we should probably think about getting a new one some time about now.
    • I like the current one. It's tried and tested, all the bugs have been ironed out. Not likely to cause any upsets any time soon. It ain't broke, why fix it?

      • Inconsistent colour, apparent size varies year to year and even month to month. Seems pretty buggy to me.
        • Yet it's highly predictable. Bugs are by nature unpredictable and leading to unexpected behaviour. Haven't seen that with the moon.

          • Consistently reproducible bugs are still bugs. They're the kind of bugs somebody should've fixed by now.

        • They're features, not bugs. What sort of a geologist or astronomer are you?
    • You kidding? That's one hell of an uptime! Don't you dare thinking about replacing it!

    • We should Blow Up the Moon . . .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csj7vMKy4EI
  • I thought moon dust built up at 1mm/1000 years , thus 4.5B years would 4500m thick??
    What gives?

    • The 1mm/1000 years figure is flawed. It is based on an incorrect value of 14 millions tons of dust per year computed in the early 60th. More recent figures are 100 to 1000 time smaller.

      Even creationists websites do not use anymore moon dust as an argument. For instance look at the last paragraph in the Conclusion section of https://answersingenesis.org/a... [answersingenesis.org]

      "Calculations show that the amount of meteoritic dust in the surface dust layer, and that which trace element analyses have shown to be in the regolith,

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Man, creationist argument refuted by creation science. That's got to sting.

  • by sh00z ( 206503 ) <sh00z@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Thursday January 12, 2017 @09:15AM (#53653283) Journal
    ...I learned from watching "Creature From the Black Lagoon." That movie has surprisingly accurate science for a Universal monster flick. Double-checking fossil age estimates against the surrounding rock. Whoa, I didn't catch that when I was eight! The leading-man "good guy" scientist is searching for additional information about the transition from water-breathers to air-breathers in the evolutionary record for tidbits that could prove useful in adapting the human body for deep-space exploration.
  • What if the sample were from earth... that would explain why they both have the same age...?
    • The water content and oxygen fugacity of terrestrial magmas are both far higher than the lunar samples, which are things that would show up in a "major element" chemical analysis. You'd spot it immediately (if it was your several-thousandth major element analysis you were looking at, otherwise you'd need to spend hours doing the detailed comparison). There are more subtle traits too, which you'd get from the minor elements analysis - which on the departmental XRF machine would have meant an hour or so of za
  • "Previous estimates ranged within 100 million years, all the way out to 200 million years after the solar system's creation, not quite 4.6 billion years ago." is misleading. It sounds like before this research we had no clue. Scientific consensus has been that it's roughly 4.5 billion years old for decades now. As a lazy check, the Wikipedia article on the moon has stated the 4.5 billion figure based on a source from NASA since September 2002 [wikipedia.org], and likely wasn't in there previously because Wikipedia was pret
  • by Richard Kirk ( 535523 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @01:40PM (#53655097)

    If you make a cake with 4.5 billion candles, and each candle was 1 lumen; it would give off 4.5 Gigalumens.

    If the full moon lights the earth with 0.1 lux (I have found several values, but this one will do) then I calculate the moon reflects the equivalent of 50 Gigalumens. This is not quite your classical lumen, which gives off light in all directions, but that's only a factor of 2.

    So the cake would be 9% as bright as the full moon.

    • So this accounts for the 10% difference in light from what they told us was a Supermoon, but in actuality was a birthday party?

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