Earth's Oldest Rock Found on the Moon?

Big Bertha

Big Bertha

An global team of scientists associated with the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), part of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, found evidence that the rock was launched from Earth by a large impacting asteroid or comet.

The team from Curtin University in Western Australia were studying samples collected by the 1971 Apollo 14 lunar mission on loan from NASA, in association with researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Australian National University and Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

As Dr Thomas Gernon, associate professor in Earth Science at Southampton University who was involved in the study, revealed, researchers arrived at this conclusion by studying the surface of Moon which, as he pointed out, "is our nearest neighbour so gets hits by the same population of asteroids".

The scientists found that one rock contained a 0.08-ounce (2 grams) fragment composed of quartz, feldspar and zircon, all of which are rare on the moon but common here on Earth.

The cause of the this mass extinction event - known as the K-T impact - was most likely a massive asteroid impact.

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The possible relic was discovered and dug up in 1971 and scientists believe that it was sent off Earth, thanks to a powerful impact, possibly an asteroid or a comet. If one fragment could be found, there should be others, and studies of other lunar samples may locate them.

Once that information sinks in, imagine how the trajectory of the rock billions of years ago when asteroids hit our planet.

That seems to have changed, however, because a group of scientists recently announced they've found a rock that formed only half a billion years after the Earth itself. Finally, Apollo 14 astronauts found the rock and reunited it with mother Earth.

This rock fragment is over 4 billion years old. At the time, Earth would have been experiencing asteroid impacts capable of creating craters that were hundreds of miles wide.

It is conceivable that the example isn't of the terrestrial source, yet rather crystallized on the Moon, nonetheless, that would require conditions at no other time gathered from lunar examples. It would also be highly unusual for a lunar sample, the researchers said.

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It would require the sample to have formed at tremendous depths, in the lunar mantle, where different rock compositions are found.

After the rock came to rest on the lunar surface, another impact 3.9 billion years ago partially melted and buried it, scientists believe. The twist is that this particular rock wasn't discovered on Earth at all.

That impact resurfaced the rock, which was then collected by the Nasa astronauts.

Kring expects that some geologists in the scientific community won't accept the finding because it seems controversial.

"It is an extraordinary find that helps paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life", David Kring, principal investigator for the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, said in a statement.

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