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The Moon Is Just 95 Million Years Younger Than The Solar System: Study

An airplane at about 2,400 meters above the ground  passes in front of the Moon on its way to landing at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Taken from about 70 km from Paris. Credit and copyright: Sebastien Lebrigand.

An airplane at about 2,400 meters above the ground passes in front of the Moon on its way to landing at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Taken from about 70 km from Paris. Credit and copyright: Sebastien Lebrigand.

Stuff from Earth’s interior, combined with simulations, have one research team pinning down the Moon’s age to only 95 million years after the Solar System formed (which would make our closest satellite about 4.4 billion years old.)

The simulation involved replicating how the Earth and the other terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) grew from a protoplanetary disc surrounding the young Sun. After 259 simulations, the researchers uncovered a link between when a Mars-sized object smacked Earth (eventually forming the Moon) and how much material Earth gained after the crash.

“This correlation just jumped out of the simulations and held in each set of old simulations we looked at,” stated Seth Jacobson of the Observatory of Cote d’Azur in France, who led the study.

Buzz Aldrin's bootprint on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Credit: NASA

Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Credit: NASA

Researchers are calling this a “geologic clock” that dates the Moon independently from the samples Apollo astronauts collected from the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, which were dated using radioactive decay of atomic nuclei. The Earth’s mass was estimated using previously published material examining how plentiful “siderophile” (iron-associated) elements were in Earth’s mantle.

The exact date, for the curious, puts the Moon’s formation at 95 ±32 million years after the solar system began. The measurement agrees with some, but not all, radioactive dating methods.

The researchers argue that this new understanding will help scientists figure out which of the radioactive dating methods are the most useful to figure out the Moon’s age, but it will be interesting to see what other teams think of that conclusion.

You can read the full study in Nature.

Source: Southwest Research Institute

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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