Hyderabad: 23 October 2023: Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, two American astronauts, collected around 243 pounds (110.4 kg) of soil and rock samples during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, the last time humans set foot on the moon. These samples were brought back to Earth for more research.
A half-century later, zircon crystals found inside a piece of coarse-grained igneous rock Schmitt obtained are helping researchers learn more about the moon's creation and the exact age of Earth's planetary companion.
Based on investigations of the crystals, scientists said on Monday that the moon is around 40 million years older than previously assumed, having formed more than 4.46 billion years ago, only 110 million years after the beginning of the solar system.
The most popular theory for how the moon formed is that it did so during the solar system’s chaotic early history a Mars-sized object called Theia slammed into primordial Earth. This blasted magma – molten rock – into space, forming a debris disk that orbited Earth and coalesced into the moon. But the exact timing of the moon’s formation has been hard to nail down.