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Is the Moon younger than we thought?

New research has shown that the Moon might be 200 million years younger than we originally thought. The new, detailed analysis of a rock which was brought to Earth in 1972 by Apollo 16 has led to the breakthrough findings.

The findings were published yesterday by the journal Nature will cause much debate among scientists as they try to figure out the Moon’s evolution.

Many think that the Moon was formed from debris, after a giant impact between Mars and a still molten Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. According to the Wikipedia entry: computer simulations modelling a giant impact are consistent with measurements of the angular momentum of the Earth–Moon system, and the small size of the lunar core; they also show that most of the Moon came from the impactor, not from the proto-Earth.

The LA Times science section adds that the moon in an early state would have been hot and blanketed by magma but without a heavy atmosphere to trap the heat, the molten rock cooled quickly. Minerals that were not as dense, then moved to the top surface, forming the moon’s crust. The rocks we have seen in imagery, give the white highlands of the near side their pale hue and have been used by scientists to determine the point at which the moon solidified into the body we know today.

A new team of scientists however have used new techniques to analyse the test sample which was collected on the Apollo 16 mission, one of the oldest rocks that could provide rich detail on the history.

The LA Times add “Planetary scientists can determine a rock’s age by calculating how many radioactive “parent” isotopes of a particular element have decayed into “daughter” isotopes. But rather than test the radioactive decay using just one method, the researchers used three, involving the elements lead, samarium and neodymium. Because different isotopes decay at different rates, each method provided a slightly different measuring stick.

All three calculations resulted in very similar ages: an average of about 4.36 billion years, which surprised the scientists. “We all looked at one another and laughed,” said lead author Lars Borg, a geochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California.

If that is correct, it means the moon’s magma ocean formed — and cooled — more recently than scientists have generally thought was the case based on evidence from meteorites containing some of the oldest minerals in the solar system. This also could mean that the great impact that separated the moon from Earth happened more recently too.”

This could lead to a lot of accepted data proving to be inaccurate, and many scientists reevaluating their hypothesis.

Kitguru says: Scientists are scrambling to get answers. More information will assuredly be released in the coming weeks.

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