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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