February 21, 2019

Earth's Oldest Rock Was Actually Found On The Moon

27 January 2019, 08:29 | Dale Webster

Big Bertha

Big Bertha

The final impact event to affect this sample occurred about 26 million years ago, when an impacting asteroid hit the Moon, producing the small 340 meter-diameter Cone Crater, and excavating the sample back onto the lunar surface where astronauts collected it nearly exactly 48 years ago (January 31-February 6, 1971).

Although extremely rare, asteroid strikes hold the potential to pulverise the planet. The rock was discovered by scientists decades ago thanks to the Apollo 14 crew.

In order to find impactor parts in the lunar regolith, the group created some systems which incited CLSE Principal Investigator Dr. David A. Kring, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientists at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) by provoking them to find part of the Earth on the Moon.

Chemical analysis of the fragment showed it crystallized in an environment that could be found on ancient Earth but not on the moon, said the team led by Jeremy Bellucci and Alexander Nemchin at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and Curtin University in Australia. This same impact created the Cone Crater that astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell explored and sampled during their moon mission almost half a decade ago.

The fragment endured further trauma on the moon's surface. He holds a Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"It is possible that some of these unusual conditions could have occurred very locally and very briefly on the moon and the sample is a result of this brief deviation from normality", Professor Nemchin said. The Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old, and the oldest rocks we've ever found are a little over half that age.

The Moon was much closer to the Earth than it is today when the rock fragment was produced and ejected from the Earth.

The findings appeared in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Impacts of this magnitude were capable of pulling out materials from deep within the Earth's surface. The simpler explanation, the researchers said, is that it came from Earth. That rock is the oldest known rock to originate from the Earth, dating back to approximately four billion years. According to one widely accepted theory, the moon - and possibly the elemental foundations that make life possible on Earth - was formed when a large planet collided with ours, sending fragments and planet bits soaring into space. Then, a massive collision between Earth and a comet or asteroid threw the rock to the Moon. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into lunar space.

Since zircon contains uranium, whose half-life is predictable, the researchers were able to date the rock to about 4 to 4.1 billion years ago.

Kring suspects the conclusion of a terrestrial origin for the rock fragment will be controversial.

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