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Moon, Earth may be younger than thought

Aug. 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM   |   Comments

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LIVERMORE, Calif., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say tests on rocks from the lunar crust suggest the moon and Earth may be millions of years younger than previously thought.

While the most common estimate of the moon's age is 4.5 billion years, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California new measurements of isotopes of lead and neodymium in rocks gathered by the Apollo missions suggest it may be just 4.36 billion years old, a release issued by the laboratory Wednesday said.

The findings may mean the Earth is younger as well, they say, since the moon is thought to have been formed after the impact of an object with the Earth and then solidified from an ocean of molten rock.

"If our analysis represents the age of the moon, then the Earth must be fairly young as well," laboratory researcher Lars Borg said. "This is in stark contrast to a planet like Mars, which is argued to have formed around 4.53 billion years ago.

"If the age we report is from one of the first formed lunar rocks, then the moon is about 165 million years younger than Mars and about 200 million years younger than large asteroids."

The isotope measurements were made in samples of ferroan anorthosite, a type of moon crustal rock considered to represent the oldest lunar crustal rock type, the researchers said.

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