The moon, a focal point of space research and exploration for years, continues to reveal mysteries. Recent research has unveiled that the moon is approximately 40 million years older than previously estimated, shedding new light on its origins.
A study published by the European Association of Geochemistry delved into the age of crystal formations found in rock samples collected from the moon’s surface. These samples, gathered during NASA’s Apollo program, contained a substantial amount of crystals known as zircon. The presence of these zircon crystals hinted at the moon’s formation occurring roughly 110 million years after the birth of our solar system. Scientists employed advanced analytical methods, including mass spectrometry to measure specific molecules within the rock samples. Additionally, atom-probe tomography helped determine the age of the crystals by detecting the amount of radioactive decay.
This newfound information provides a rough estimate of when the moon might have originated, offering insights into the theory that a Mars-sized object collided with Earth several billion years ago, ultimately leading to the moon’s creation. The study underscores the significance of exploratory missions like Apollo 17, which aimed to understand the moon’s surface geology and brought back 243 pounds of lunar material. Remarkably, this material was examined by researchers 51 years after its return to Earth.
Although NASA’s next manned mission to the moon is not anticipated until at least 2025, the prospects for further discoveries remain abundant. With over 105 robotic spacecraft missions already launched to explore the moon, there are ample opportunities to unveil additional insights into the moon’s composition and formation. Ongoing rover programs are expected to continue shedding light on the moon’s enigmatic history.