We May Have Found Earth's Oldest Known Rock. It Was on The Moon
27 January, 2019, 20:26
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Nope. According to an worldwide team of scientists, there's evidence the rock was terrestrial in origin - it's a 2-gram piece of quartz, feldspar, and zircon embedded in a larger chunk of rock called Big Bertha - minerals that are rare on the Moon, but really common here on Earth. These minerals are commonly found on Earth, but are highly unusual on the moon. If it had formed on the Moon, that would require conditions never before inferred from lunar samples.
To have a lunar origin, the rock would have had to crystallise at tremendous depth where rocks tend to have very different compositions, they write.
The example might not be of the terrestrial source, that could be a chance, but yet instead crystallized on the Moon. Chemical analysis later showed that it crystallised in a terrestrial-like oxidised system at terrestrial temperatures, rather than in the reducing and higher temperature conditions that are characteristic of the moon.
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. The impact as so powerful that it threw the rock from our world, through space, directly on the Moon. Around that time, the planet was regularly bombarded by cosmic objects of all shapes and sizes, some responsible for producing craters thousands of kilometers in diameter on Earth - so this isn't that far-fetched of an explanation at all.
"For that reason it provides a neat achieve of impacts, as it is unlike the Earth, which is affected by erosion and plate tectonics that disturb impact craters". Therefore, the simplest interpretation is that the sample came from Earth.
The research, "Terrestrial-like zircon in a clast from an Apollo 14 breccia", can be found online here.
Previously, the oldest known fragment of Earth rock was a zircon crystal from Western Australia.
But as Robinson explained, Big Bertha was covered in regolith, just not enough to bury it completely.
The rock was among the samples discovered by the Apollo 14 crew.
Once that information sinks in, imagine how the trajectory of the rock billions of years ago when asteroids hit our planet. They also determined - based on the sample's geochemical properties - that it must have formed at a depth of about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) beneath Earth's surface.
The Earth is old, extremely old. In the new study, the researchers analyzed the samples and suggested that some of them were on the moon 3.9 billion years ago. But Day said the researchers missed a third possibility. For starters, the Moon itself was once a piece of Earth, detached by a collision with a particularly large asteroid early in our planet's history.
When reached for comment, Bellucci said some of his peers are likely to be sceptical simply because the samples were found on the Moon.
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