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The Moon Is Older Than We Previously Thought

It turns out the moon is older than many scientists suspected: a ripe 4.51 billion years old. That’s the newest estimate, thanks to rocks and soil collected by the Apollo 14 moonwalkers in 1971. A research team reported Wednesday that the moon formed within 60 million years of the birth of the solar system. Previous estimates ranged within 100 million years, all the way out to 200 million years after the solar system’s creation, not quite 4.6 billion years ago. The scientists conducted uranium-lead dating on fragments of the mineral zircon extracted from Apollo 14 lunar samples. The pieces of zircon were minuscule—no bigger than a grain of sand.

The moon was created from debris knocked off from Earth, which itself is thought to be roughly 4.54 billion years old. The lead author of the study published Wednesday says the moon holds “so much magic…the key to understand how our beautiful Earth formed and evolved.” It’s the second major moon study this week. On Monday, Israeli scientists suggested our Earth’s constant companion may actually be a melting pot of many mini-moons. Rather than one giant impact that shaved off a chunk of Earth and formed the moon, a series of smaller collisions may have created multiple moonlets that eventually merged into one, according to the researchers.

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