“The new data is a huge advance in precision over previous similar work,” says Carlson.
“My concerns are those from someone familiar with the subject and approach.” Still, Barboni says it makes more sense for the Moon to be fairly old.
Some scientists think that life formed as late as 4.1 billion years ago.
If that’s the case, then the giant impact likely occurred much earlier than the first emergence of lifeforms.
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.
That’s why Barboni measured another important set of elements: lutetium and hafnium.
As the Moon took shape, its materials separated into an inner mantle surrounded by a crust, and that process would have changed the ratio of lutetium and hafnium within various regions of the Moon.
“It’s not going to get affected by much alteration or shock.” The technique used to analyze these lunar samples, however, was considered a little risky since it involved completely dissolving the zircon within acid.
“This was the very first time the zircon would completely disappear,” says Barboni.
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.
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.