Scientists found Earth’s oldest rock on Moon

Kring  Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

Kring Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

Back in 1971, the Apollo 14 mission had astronauts dug up material from the surface of the moon.

An analysis of the rock revealed that it formed at temperatures associated with Earth and in an Earth-like setting combined with oxygen.

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

According to the release, "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".

Before this discovery, we had to guess at what the rocks of the early Earth looked like, but now we have a much better idea.

The fragment of Earth was blasted off the planet during a powerful impact some 4 billion years ago, researchers said. The researchers believe that more than one asteroid impacts lifted the rock from Earth's interior to the planet's surface.

It was then returned to the surface around 26 million years ago, during the impact event that produced the Cone Crater - where it remained until Big Bertha was collected by Apollo 14 astronauts just a few decades ago. The final impact event to affect this sample occurred about 26 million years ago, when an impacting asteroid hit the Moon, producing the small 340 meter-diameter Cone Crater, and excavating the sample back onto the lunar surface where astronauts collected it nearly exactly 48 years ago (January 31 to February 6, 1971).

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The rock is considered a relic of an intense period of bombardment that shaped the solar system during its first billion years, after which the moon was only affected by small and less frequent events. The apparent terrestrial fragment found within Big Bertha formed around 20km below the Earth's surface - a depth not out of reach for these ancient asteroids.

The fragment is 4 billion to 4.1 billion years old, they say.

Around 4 billion years back, due to this impact, a lot of material was ejected through the primitive atmosphere of the Earth into space where afterward slammed into the Moon's outside (which was three times closer to the Earth than it is now).

The investigation of an global team of scientists revealed that the sample contains a fragment of ancient crust which scientists believe is very likely to have formed deep beneath the Earth's surface. This one seems to have been somewhere near the end of the list, but it may be the most interesting one ever found. "There are zircons on Earth of 4.4 to 4.3 billion years old which come from western Australia".

A lunar rock sample collected on the Apollo 14 mission.

Day said his scenario seems more plausible compared to the "required chain of events of [breaking] felsite from the Earth at very high impact pressures so that it can escape Earth's orbit, and then incorporating it in a lunar impact melt rock".

The researchers believe that this impact helped bring the piece of Earth back to the moon's surface.

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