The moon is older than previously thought, pushing back the clock for when conditions on Earth were suitable for life, research published on Wednesday shows.
A new analysis of zircon fragments trapped in rock samples retrieved by the Apollo 14 astronauts shows that the moon is 4.51 billion years old, meaning it formed within 60 million years of the birth of the solar system.
A previous study based on the same samples also showed the moon formed early, within 68 million years of the solar system’s birth. Other estimates of the moon’s age range from 100 million to 200 million years after the solar system’s formation.
The discovery, published in this week’s Science Advances, means Earth may have emerged from its battered youth years sooner than thought, setting an early stage for life.
[Photo by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center]