Earth is around 60 million years older than previously thought — and so is the moon, new research finds

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By Science Daily

 

Work presented today at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference in Sacramento, California shows that the timing of the giant impact between Earth’s ancestor and a planet-sized body occurred around 40 million years after the start of solar system formation. This means that the final stage of Earth’s formation is around 60 million years older than previously thought.

Geochemists from the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France have discovered an isotopic signal which indicates that previous age estimates for both the Earth and the Moon are underestimates. Looking back into “deep time” it becomes more difficult to put a date on early Earth events. In part this is because there is little “classical geology” dating from the time of the formation of the Earth — no rock layers, etc. So geochemists have had to rely on other methods to estimate early Earth events. One of the standard methods is measuring the changes in the proportions of different gases (isotopes) which survive from the early Earth.

Guillaume Avice and Bernard Marty analysed xenon gas found in South African and Australian quartz, which had been dated to 3.4 and 2.7 billion years respectively. The gas sealed in this quartz is preserved as in a “time capsule,” allowing Avice and Marty to compare the current isotopic ratios of xenon, with those which existed billions of years ago. Recalibrating dating techniques using the ancient gas allowed them to refine the estimate of when the Earth began to form. This allows them to calculate that the Moon-forming impact is around 60 million years (+/- 20 m. y.) older than had been thought.

Previously, the time of formation of the Earth’ s atmosphere had been estimated at around 100 million years after the solar system formation. As the atmosphere would not have survived the Moon-forming impact, this revision puts the age up to 40 million years after the solar sytem formation (so around 60 million years older than previously thought).

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. This is astounding. No other human activity can reveal the fundamental facts about the origins and history of our Solar System; or anything else for that matter

    And it’s knife edge stuff, because quintessentially scientific findings are falsifiable; that’s what makes them exciting and scientific.

    Tomorrow these data could be found to be wrong, and if they were, out they would go, to be replaced by the new discoveries.

    The methodologies of science drive it forward, with energy provided by the human brain.

    Now I’m sounding very pretentious, so I’ll stop.

    • Not sure why you feel the need to mention such. You’re on a site where the posters can often answer with varying degrees of knowledge on the subject, a few doubters on whether the article heading should read as it does due to technicalities within the article itself or because it may be pure sensationalism, but that’s not too often. Anyway, it just seemed odd when you stated the obvious.

  2. I’m impressed by how accurately we have been able to age the earth. Now we’re quibbling over 60 million years, which is a tiny amount of time considering the billions of years we know the earth has been around.

    By the way, does anyone know how to submit news articles on this new site? I’ve been looking and haven’t been able to find it…

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