Chunk of Rock Brought Back from the Moon in 1971 Might Be a 4 Billion-Old Piece of Earth

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Who would have thought that the oldest rock on Earth could be brought from the moon?

Back in 1971, the Apollo 14 mission had astronauts dug up material from the surface of the moon. However, they had no idea that the fragment would contain a piece from Earth which probably was blasted from our planet by an impact and it crashed into the moon.

According to the statement from the co-author of the study – scientist David Kring (Universities Space Research Association, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston), this discovery helps scientists “paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life.”

Fragment from Early Earth Found on the Moon

In their study, the research team which was led by Jeremy Bellucci (Swedish Museum of Natural History) and Alexander Nemchin (Swedish Museum and Curtin University, Australia), analyzed samples collected by the members of the 1971 Apollo 14 mission.

Analysis of the rock showed that it contained 2 grams of a fragment that was composed of three very common materials found on Earth: quartz, feldspar, and zircon. These materials are very rare on the moon, and looking at the chemical analysis, this tiny fragment was crystallized in an environment similar to the one on early Earth’s subsurface.

The evidence gathered by the team shows that this fragment formed 4.1 – 4 billion years ago at almost 20 km under Earth’s surface. Then, a powerful impact launched the rock into space, making its way to the moon, which was nearly three times closer to our planet than today. The impact probably melted the fragment, buried by another collision nearly 3.9 billion years ago and uncovered by another impact 26 million years ago. The last event created the 340 Cone Crater here the Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell sampled the area and explored it in 1971.

This theory is the easiest explanation since the formation of such a fragment would need an oxidizing environment. If it were to be created on the moon, researchers would have to rethink all they know about the moon’s interior and surface from the past.


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