Image: NASA

Moon seems older than we thought! At least the last data collections from Apollo 14 mission suggest it. The age of the Moon has never been accurately determined and has several hypotheses for its origin. It’s usually difficult to determine the age of moon rocks because most of them contain a patchwork of fragments of multiple other rocks. Previous estimates were 150 to 200 million years after solar system’s birth. The new study published in the journal Science Advances brought new theories and calculations of the Moon ages.

Moon rocks reveal that we were very wrong about the age of the Moon. Image: NASA

Moon Rocks From Apollo 14 Mission

The Apollo 14 mission was launched on January 31, 1971, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The spacecraft landed in the Fra Mauro highlands. The primary objectives of this mission were to explore lunar field geology and collection of surface material samples. Most of the rocks samples brought back by Apollo astronauts are mixes of different rocks so-called breccias.

Several boulders clustered together on moon
A hammer and a small collection bag lie on top of a lunar boulder to give some indication of size in this view of several boulders clustered together. Image: NASA

Researchers from UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences examined minerals from our satellite called zircons that were brought back to Earth by the Apollo 14 mission. Zircon is known for its geological history preservation and characteristic to reveal origin. They measured the ratio of uranium and the isotopic ratio of hafnium in zircon fragments to date the moon. The findings showed that our closest neighbor is old, at least 4.51 billion years. This means that it is older 140 million years that we thought. It also means that satellite formed only 60 million years after the birth of our solar system.

celestial body about the size of our moon slamming at great speed into a body the size of Mercury
Thanks to the uranium ratio on zircon fragments, researchers estimated the age of moon 4.51 billion years. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Accurate determination of the Luna age is extremely important for understanding the evolution of the Solar system, therefore the evolution of Earth. There are still numerous hypothesis of satellite origin such as Earth’s collision with Theia – a hypnotized ancient planet mass. As the surface samples from other planets in our Solar system still unreachable, the moon rocks represent the best available material for examinations.