Earth's Oldest Rock Was Actually Found On The Moon

Pat Wise
January 27, 2019

Their findings led them to speculate that the piece of ancient rock was jolted from Earth by an asteroid impact, roughly the size of that which is thought to have killed the dinosaurs.

Analyzing lunar samples collected by the Apollo 14 mission, the researchers found that the rock consisted of 0.08 ounces of quartz, feldspar and zircon, minerals that are fairly commonplace on Earth but "highly unusual on the Moon", according to the statement. Scientists have discovered the rock decades ago by the Apollo 14 crew.

If we ever go back to the moon again, we might find more Earth samples lying around the surface. But they're really what's left of rocks that disintegrated ages ago. That rock is on the Moon.

The final impact that affected the rock took place about 26 million years ago when an asteroid slammed into the Moon and made the cone crater, measuring 340 metres wide and 75 metres deep, near the Apollo 14 landing site.

Because the Moon was much closer to Earth at that point - about three times closer than it is now - it was in a better position for pieces of this debris to end up there.

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"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". According to an global team of researchers, the two-gram piece of quartz, feldspar, and zircon was found embedded in a larger rock called Big Bertha.

"In addition, the chemistry of the zircon in this sample is very different from that of every other zircon grain ever analysed in lunar samples, and remarkably similar to that of zircons found on Earth".

An global team associated with Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) in the United States found evidence that the rock was launched from Earth by a large impacting asteroid or comet.

The available evidence suggests that the fragment crystallized 4.1 billion to 4 billion years ago about 12 miles (20 kilometers) beneath Earth's surface, then was launched into space by a powerful impact shortly thereafter. Previous work by the team showed that impacting asteroids at that time were producing craters thousands of kilometers in diameter on Earth, sufficiently large to bring material from those depths to the surface. 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 Earth is believed to have been formed in the early Solar System almost 4.5 billion years ago. Impact craters, some flooded by shallow seas, cover large swaths of the Earth's surface. While the Hadean Earth is a reasonable source for the sample, a first find of this kind may be a challenge for the geologic community to digest. Dr. Katharine Robinson, a postdoctoral researcher at the LPI, was also involved in the study, as were Dr. Marion Grange (Curtin University), Dr. Gareth Collins (Imperial College London), Dr. Martin Whitehouse (Swedish Museum of Natural History), Dr. Josh Snape (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), and Prof.

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