When you Google the moon’s age, you’ll get a quick answer: 4.527 billion years. However, new research suggests that the moon is younger than we think.
Geochemist Richard Carlson of the Carnegie Institute of Washington, D.C., believes the moon is 100 million years younger than previously thought. That means our closest celestial body is actually 4.4 billion to 4.45 billion years old.
The Los Angles Times reports that the current theory about the moon’s birth suggests it formed when a large proto-planet collided with the Earth.
The collision caused large amounts of rocky debris to go into space. Most of the material returned to Earth, but the theory suggests some of it stayed in place and grew together to form the moon.
Carlson came to his conclusion that the moon is younger than we thought by analyzing lunar rocks. Space News notes that his findings could change how scientists understand the early Earth and its natural satellite.
Carlson explained, “There are several important implications of this late moon formation that have not yet been worked out.”
In order to determine the age of the moon, Carlson used radioactive dating to find out how old the rocks collected during the Apollo missions are. While previous work in the area showed a large margin of error, the geochemist says that improved technology has helped narrow it down.
Carlson stated, “Back in the 1970s, you couldn’t distinguish between 4.45 and 4.55 billion years.” With today’s technology, the geochemist asserts that we can. He added, “We know the age of the solar system very well — 4.568 billion years. so the earth may have had two phases of its life — one before the giant impact, and another one greatly modified by the impact.”
Carlson presented his findings about the moon’s age during the “Origins of the Moon” meeting of the Royal Society.
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