Earth's Oldest Rock Was Actually Found On The Moon

29 January, 2019, 08:58 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Apollo Astronauts May Have Found the Oldest Earth Rock We Know On the Moon

After its arrival, the rock got mixed in with other lunar surface materials into one sample.

At the time of the collision, the moon was three times closer to Earth than it is today. This same impact created the Cone Crater that astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell explored and sampled during their moon mission almost half a decade ago. Sample 14321 is special in that it's a clast-rich, crystalline matrix breccia. (The moon is still retreating from us, at a rate of about 1.5 inches, or 3.8 centimeters, per year.) The fragment endured further trauma on the lunar surface. He notes that samples of Hadean Earth certainly peppered the lunar surface; other samples will likely be found with additional study. These materials rarely occur on the moon but are common here on Earth. And indeed, a chemical analysis of the sample suggests it formed under terrestrial, rather than lunar, conditions.

However, the rock formed deep inside the Earth. And there is a good chance that this is not the only part of our Earth on the moon's surface.

Besides its composition, the Earth's oldest rock ever discovered also formed at temperatures linked to the Earth and in an environment rich in oxygen.

In just a geologic blink of an eye, most of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, went extinct 66 million years ago. It was found on the moon. These materials, by the way, the moon is not peculiar.

Research about this relic has been published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Shepard Jr. assembles equipment on the lunar surface in Feburary 1971. Indeed, billions of years of steadily accumulating lunar dust, known as regolith, should have obscured traces of this rock.

It's possible that the rock was impacted again, once it reached the lunar surface, the scientists added.

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A fascinating aspect of this discovery is that this lunar sample of apparent terrestrial origin is truly ancient.

The fragment is 4 billion to 4.1 billion years old, they say.

Figuring out exactly how this Earth rock got mixed up with moon rocks might be more hard, although there are theories.

Scientists believe that the moon itself was formed around 4.5 billion years ago as a result of a collision between the Earth and another astronomical body approximately the size of Mars.

Previously, the oldest known fragment of Earth rock was a zircon crystal from Western Australia.

Scientists revealed that the rock was formed at temperatures associated with Earth and Earth-like settings, likely some 12.4 miles below the Earth's surface. After that period, the Moon was affected by smaller and less frequent impact events.

"During formation of melts by impacts, conditions can be obtained to generate the unusual trace element chemistry of the zircons, but this possibility is not considered by the authors, even though these felsite clasts have textures consistent with being melt rocks, including melting and brecciation".

When Apollo 14 astronauts retrieved the samples of lunar soil and rocks, they believed that this particular rock could contain lots of information about the Moon formation and composition.

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