Researchers have tackled the debate over the moon's age from a new angle and determined that it is 4.47 billion years old.
The precise age of the moon has been something of a mystery for scientists, but recent research suggests it is actually 60 million years younger than previously estimated. This makes the moon 4.47 billion years old - give or take 32 million years.
Past debates over the moon's age revolve around the use of radiometric dating, the most well-known example of which is carbon dating, which is used to estimate the age of organic materials. But when dating the moon, scientists must use elements other than carbon, and it is the choice of different elements and the ensuing variations in the resulting age estimates that has caused debate.
"Geochemists get into a lot of fights with each other trying to determine what these ages mean," says Seth Jacobson, a planetary scientist at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in Nice, France, and co-author of a new study published in the journal Nature. Rather than tackling the age question from the perspective of radiometric dating, Jacobson and his team used a different approach.
The most commonly accepted explanation for the formation of the moon is that the Earth was struck by a Mars-sized object in its infancy, and the resulting debris coalesced to form the moon. The precise stage or time in the Earth's formation when this occurred will determine the composition of the debris left on both our planet and the moon, and Jacobson's team ran more than 250 computer simulations to arrive at this new age estimate, which lends further evidence to those arguing for a late-forming moon.