Earth’s oldest rock was found by Apollo 14 astronauts - on the moon

Earth’s oldest rock was found by Apollo 14 astronauts - on the moon

Earth’s oldest rock was found by Apollo 14 astronauts - on the moon

In findings published overnight in science journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, a sample collected during the 1971 Apollo 14 lunar mission was found to contain traces of minerals with a chemical composition common to Earth and very unusual for the moon.

An global team of scientists led by NASA's Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), found evidence that the impact jettisoned material through Earth's primitive atmosphere, into space, where it collided with the surface of the Moon (which was three times closer to Earth than it is now) about 4 billion years ago.

According to the scientists, it was launched off Earth about 4 billion years ago when an asteroid or comet slammed into our young, roughly 540-million-year-old planet, sending rock fragments flying off into space.

One of the scientists involved in the study pointed out that although the number of space rocks striking earth is increasing, the probability of an asteroid strike wiping out mankind is extremely low.

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Dr. Kring said, "It is an extraordinary find that helps paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life".

A lot of the rocks we have on Earth aare pretty old, but none of them were around when our planet was first formed. According to an worldwide team of researchers, the two-gram piece of quartz, feldspar, and zircon was found embedded in a larger rock called Big Bertha.

The team's analyses are providing additional details about the sample's history.

"Over time these rocks get bombarded by sunlight and there is a process which re-emits this energy, and basically gives these fragments a tiny nudge, which can then send them on a collisional path towards Earth".

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The cause of the this mass extinction event - known as the K-T impact - was most likely a massive asteroid impact.

It is conceivable that the example isn't of the terrestrial source, yet rather crystallized on the Moon, nonetheless, that would require conditions at no other time gathered from lunar examples. The Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old, and the oldest rocks we've ever found are a little over half that age. That rock is on the Moon. The new analysis revealed that it may have been impacted and even partially melted 3.9 billion years ago, burying it under the surface and creating a "new" rock - essentially a time capsule from the early days of the solar system. The rock was able to make this serendipitous collision with the moon because it was three times closer to Earth at the time. The final impact event to affect this sample occurred about 26 million years ago, when an impacting asteroid hit the Moon, producing the small 340 meter-diameter Cone Crater, and excavating the sample back onto the lunar surface where astronauts collected it nearly exactly 48 years ago (January 31 to February 6, 1971).

The center is part of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. More information about USRA is available at http://www.usra.edu. Today, the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science.

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