Scientists pinpoint the exact age of the Moon — and it’s older than we thought

Jan 17, 2017

By Loren Grush

Scientists say they have figured out the most precise age for the Moon than ever before, thanks to samples of lunar rocks gathered during NASA’s Apollo 14 mission. Analysis of the rocks pinpoint the Moon’s creation to 4.51 billion years ago, just 60 million years after the Solar System first formed.

This suggested age makes the Moon a lot older than some recent estimates, which claim our lunar neighbor is 4.3 or 4.4 billion years old. If the results are accurate, it means the giant impact that created the Moon must have occurred fairly early on in the Solar System’s history. The Moon is thought to have formed from the leftover debris of a high-speed collision between Earth and a smaller planet-like object called Theia — and the timing of this event is important for figuring out when life formed here on Earth, too. Our planet would have been completely wiped out by the giant impact, so life could not have started forming on Earth until after the planet became whole again in the wake of the collision. So knowing the Moon’s age gives us a good idea of when the Earth started to become a suitable place to live.

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2 comments on “Scientists pinpoint the exact age of the Moon — and it’s older than we thought

  • @OP – link – So knowing the Moon’s age gives us a good idea of when the Earth started to become a suitable place to live.

    I think it would be more accurate to say it sets a date before which enduring life would have been impossible on Earth!

    Earth becoming ” a suitable place to live” for early life, came further on in the consolidation and cooling process of the planet.
    We don’t know quite how much further on, but a set surface crust, a great reduction in material dropping out of orbit on to the surface, and a surface cool enough for water to persist as a liquid, were probable requirements!
    The Moon as a smaller body, could be expected to cool sooner than Earth.

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  • It looks like further research on the moon using new rovers, is about to take place this year:-

    The race to put a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon has just five teams left in the competition.
    The surviving groups all met an end-of-2016 deadline to obtain launch contracts – and these have now been verified by the organisers of the Google Lunar X-Prize.

    To stand a chance of winning the $20m top purse, however, the teams will need to leave Earth by 31 December.

    The winner will be the first to roam at least 500m, and stream hi-res imagery.

    The remaining teams are:

    SpaceIL (Israel): The non-profit has secured a payload berth on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceIL’s surface probe will be a hopper. The group’s stated goal is to make an educational impact and to create an “Apollo Effect” for the next generation in Israel.
    Moon Express (US): The American team is also building a hopping craft. It has a vision to exploit the resources of the “eighth continent”, and has signed a contract with US-New Zealand company Rocket Lab to use its Electron vehicle on three occasions between 2017 and 2020.
    Synergy Moon (International): This team is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, and plans to use a Neptune 8 rocket supplied by California aerospace company Interorbital Systems. It will use a rover to traverse the lunar surface.
    Team Indus (India): The Indian outfit has signed a commercial launch contract to ride one of the nation’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV). Team Indus’s spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV.
    Hakuto (Japan): It has an agreement with Team Indus to share space in the PSLV. Hakuto has been developing a design that sees two rovers tethered together. The configuration, it believes, would eventually make possible the exploration of holes on the lunar surface thought to be caves or “skylights” into underlying lava tubes.

    In confirming the five teams still in with a crack at the grand prize, the X-Prize organisers also announced on Tuesday that a $1m Diversity Prize would be split among all 16 groups that had been competing up to this point.

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