Adding to a long list of mysteries surrounding the moon, a new analysis has suggested that our nearest interplanetary object may not be as old as we believe.

Currently, it's believed that soon after the solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago, a Mars-sized object hit Earth, splashing large volumes of molten material into space. This material later got cooled and formed today's moon. While some researchers have said that the sea of molten rock covering the moon surface solidified anywhere between 4.43 billion and 4.53 billion years ago, many others don't agree that it cooled that fast.

Based on a new analysis of lunar rock samples brought back by the Apollo 16 in 1972, scientists suggested that the moon may be 200 million years younger than its widely believed age.


This photo shows a moon rock collected during NASA's Apollo lunar landings. New research based on studies of lunar samples suggests the moon may be younger than thought, or formed differently that theories have indicated, scientists say. CREDIT: Lars Borg

The researchers examined the isotopes of lead, samarium and neodymium within the purified samples of the lunar rocks, and discovered that they apparently shaped up about 4.36 billion years ago, well after the widely believed time period of moon's formation. This suggests that either the moon is significantly younger than we thought so far, or the existing concept of quickly cooling molten rock is wrong.

If our analysis represents the age of the moon, then the Earth must be fairly young as well, study lead author Lars Borg, a planetary scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Borg further added that Mars, one of the first formed lunar rocks, is argued to have formed around 4.53 billion years ago. Considering that, the moon must be some 165 million years younger than Mars and about 200 million years younger than large asteroids, Etidbits reported.

Scientists gave another surprising explanation. According to them, the crustal rock called ferroan anorthosite is not at all linked to magma dynamics. They suggested that the moon never had a sea of molten rocks, and there could have been another reason for the formation of the rocks, Los Angeles Times reported.

After many years of trying, we have found a way to reliably date the ages of lunar crustal rocks with high precision, said Borg. We can apply this technique to address many questions regarding the timing of ancient events on the moon, Borg added.

Borg and his team have done a fantastic job of putting together a beautiful study of this rock, one of the most pristine samples of early lunar crust, said Alex Halliday, an isotopic geochemist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Halliday said that the new findings suggest that the moon had a fiery start at an age much later than previously considered, ScienceNOW reported.

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