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Jan 13, 2017 08:08 AM EST

UCLA Researchers Determine Moon's Exact Age

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Researchers from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) were able to debunk common beliefs about the moon's age. Apparently, the moon is a lot older than previously thought.

The New York Post reported that scientists, mostly from UCLA, studied rocks and soil collected by the Apollo 14 astronauts in 1971. It was confirmed that the moon is 4.51 billion years old, which is a much larger number than previous estimates.

It has become a common belief that the moon was formed some 100 million or 200 million years after the solar system came into existence. However, the new study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal "Science Advances," showed that Earth's satellite was formed within 60 million years of our home planet's birth.

Lead author Melanie Barboni, who is part of UCLA's Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, said that they were able to determine the minimum age for the moon. She confirmed that they conducted uranium-lead dating on fragments of the lunar soil collected by Apollo 14 astronauts, which contained the mineral zircon.

This was an impressive feat in itself because the samples were as tiny as grains of sand. Moreover, the samples were also a mix of lunar soil and rocks formed during meteorite strikes.

The researchers based the moon's formation date on its mantle and overlying crust, instead of using the rocks themselves. It was there where they found the zircon fragments.

According to The Verge, zircon played a major role in the moon's solidification. This allowed the scientists to come to an estimate of when the satellite came to existence.

Richard Carlson, the director for the department of terrestrial magnetism at Carnegie Institution for Science, acknowledged the team's work. However, he also shared his concerns over the technique used in the analysis of zircon as well as the assumptions made in the study since it's "a very complicated problem."

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