Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed.
This is concluded in new research conducted by an international team of scientists that includes James Connelly from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed.
Most of the rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts are breccias - mixes of different rocks that have been mashed together by the meteorite strikes that plague the Moon, thanks to its lack of atmosphere.
Although the samples have been carefully stored at NASA Johnson Space Center since their return to Earth, we had to extensively pre-clean the samples using a new method to remove terrestrial lead contamination.
Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected," says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.
"Establishing the age of the Moon is critical to understanding Solar System evolution and the formation of rocky planets, including Earth.
However, despite its importance, the age of the Moon has never been accurately determined," reports the team, led by Melanie Barboni from the University of California, Los Angeles.