Earth’s oldest rock found on the Moon

Kring  Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

Kring Center for Lunar Science and ExplorationMore

One of the Moon rock samples collected decades ago by Apollo 14 crew appears to be originally from Earth.

Experts found that the moon rock formed at temperatures similar to those found on Earth today.

Earth's oldest rock may have been discovered and it was picked up by astronauts on the moon during the Apollo 14 in 1971.

Professor Alexander Nemchin, from Curtin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, told Xinhua on Friday that the team discovered one of the 1.8 gram samples showing mineralogy similar to granite which is common on Earth but extremely rare on the moon. 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.

What could be Earth's oldest rock was found almost 50 years ago, but it wasn't found on this planet.

Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard stands by the Modular Equipment Transporter (MET), a cart for carrying tools, cameras and sample cases on the lunar surface. It most likely made its way to the lunar surface, they concluded, when a massive impact event on our planet hurled the rock into space, and onto the moon, which was about three times closer to Earth at the time. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into lunar space. This impact would have jettisoned material through Earth's infant atmosphere and eventually found its way to the moon. The event might have taken place about four billion years ago, researchers said.

The evidence gathered by the team shows that this fragment formed 4.1 - 4 billion years ago at nearly 20 km under Earth's surface.

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The University of Southampton's Dr Gernon believes we can learn a lot about Earth from looking at the Moon. Scientists believe that a powerful impact, possibly a comet or asteroid, may have resulted in the transportation.

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".

A lunar rock sample collected on the Apollo 14 mission.

The Apollo missions brought back a whole lot of rock samples, and scientists have been methodically analyzing them ever since.

National Geographic writes that Earth's oldest minerals, up to 4.4 billion years old, are found in Australia's Jack Hills. The sliver of material, the same width as two human hairs, has been dated to 4.4 billion years old.

The team acknowledged that the fragment could have formed deep beneath the moon's surface, but it's much more likely it formed on Earth. After that period, the Moon was affected by smaller and less frequent impact events.

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.

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