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The Apollo missions were to have a lasting legacy in space exploration, particularly the Apollo 11 mission that saw mankind walk on the Moon for the first time.
But a new study extends the legacy of the Apollo missions, something that is far greater than it is to walk on another celestial body — it suggests that the Moon is far older than anyone would have guessed.
The researchers analyzed the lunar rocks collected by the Apollo astronauts, and they are of the opinion that the Moon is 100 million years older than previously thought, which was probably formed about 50 million years after the solar system is done, it’s 4.56 billion years ago.
(Credit: Maxwell, Thiemes)
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“This is rock information of the formation of the Moon, and can still be found today on the surface of the moon,” said the study’s lead author from the University of Cologne researcher Dr. Maxwell Thiemens, in a statement.
The study’s co-author, Dr. Peter Sprung, added: “our observations may not be possible on Earth, if the planet is geologically active, with the passage of time. The Moon provides a unique opportunity for the study of planetary evolution.”
Some of the moon rocks brought back have been studied before, but with the advancement in technology has made it possible for more accurate readings.
A notable example is the discovery of three very rare elements, hafnium, uranium, and tungsten. These elements are radioactive and will decay in time at a predictable rate, which is related to a natural radioactive clock.” The researchers also found that the decay of hafnium-182 (that is, changed into tungsten-182) only lasted for the first 70 million years of the solar system and, thus, the conclusion reached is that the Moon began to solidify about 50 million years after the solar system began to take shape.
The image of the Earth rising above the horizon of the moon taken from the Apollo spacecraft. The lunar terrain pictured is in the area of Smyth’s Sea on the nearside. The co-ordinates of the centre of the site are in the 85-degree east longitude and 3 degrees north latitude. While astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, descended in the Lunar Module (LM) “Eagle” to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Michael Collins remained with the Command and Service Module (CSM) “Columbia” in lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)
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“By comparing the relative amounts of the different elements in the rock were formed at different times, it is possible to learn how to make each of the samples is related to the moon’s interior, and the solidification of the magma ocean, one of the study’s co-authors, Raúl Fonseca, has been added.
“In this age of information, it means that a giant impact had to occur prior to that time, that is the answer to a hotly debated question in the scientific community about when the Moon formed,” Dr. Carsten Münker said.
NASA recently announced that many of the rocks that have not been previously analyzed, and would be given to scientists for further study, with an indication of the current trends in the 21st century.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.
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