In 1972, astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan landed on the moon, particularly in the Taurus-Littrow Valley on the edge of Mare Serenitatis, a lunar mare located to the east of the moon’s Mare Imbrium – a vast lava plain within the Imbrium Basin – because they believed this area is a geologically diverse site.
These two astronauts returned with the last batch of Apollo-era moon rock, specifically collecting a total of 110.5 kilograms of lunar rock and soil – 741 samples all in all. These samples include the three major lunar rock types, namely breccia, basalt, and highland crustal rocks.
Now, new findings published in the Geochemical Perspectives Letters last week showed that the moon is actually 40 million years older – way older than what we thought it was.
Using a technology called atom probe tomography, the proponents of the recent study found that the moon formed approximately 4.46 billion years ago, which places its formation within the first 110 million years of the birth of the solar system.
So, how did the scientists come up with that conclusion? They reanalyzed crystals from lunar sample 72255, rocks and soil collected in 1972 and known to contain 4.2 billion-year-old zircon, some of the oldest ever discovered.
Thanks to technology, the scientists were able to land on new and landmark findings.
“I love the fact that this study was done on a sample that was collected and brought to Earth 51 years ago. At that time, atom probe tomography wasn’t developed yet and scientists wouldn’t have imagined the types of analyses we do today,” Philipp Heck, the study’s senior author, told the media.