Earth’s oldest rock found on the Moon

The rock was collected during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971

Scientists have long believed that a young Earth was under bombardment from space debris as the Solar System continued to form, and this appears to be some very good supporting evidence.

In a new study, they describe how they believe the two gram fragment was hurled into space during a massive asteroid strike around four billion years ago, subsequently striking the Moon and coming to rest on its surface.

The team's report, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, said the rock fragment crystallized about 12 miles below the Earth's surface 4 billion to 4.1 billion years ago.

"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", Kring said in a statement.

A chunk of Earth that could be 4.1-billion-years-old and is described as the planet's "oldest rock", may have been found and dug up on the Moon by Apollo astronauts, according to a new study. Researchers knew it came from the Earth based on the amount of various minerals like quartz and feldspar, which are common on Earth but rare on the Moon.

That would make it the oldest Earth rock ever found.

It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into lunar space.

Professor Nemchin said the chemistry of the zircon lunar sample indicated that it formed at low temperature and probably in the presence of water and at oxidized conditions, making it characteristic of Earth and highly irregular for the moon. It would've had to have formed 30 to 70 kilometres below the surface, in an "unusually oxidising magmatic environment" with oxygen levels much higher than those in the lunar mantle 4 billion years ago.

This rock fragment is over 4 billion years old. 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.

He said: "We can all see those pockmarks on the Moon and it is just fascinating to look at them and think we can exploit data being collected as speak to further our understanding of how our Earth has been affected by these events over time".

The Earth is believed to have been formed in the early Solar System almost 4.5 billion years ago.

About 26 million years ago, the team says, another asteroid impact created the Cone Crater and knocked the rock back up to the moon's surface. "While the Hadean Earth is a reasonable source for the sample, the first find of this kind may be a challenge for the geologic community to digest".

The impact resulted in the rock resurfacing, which was then collected by the Nasa astronauts. Marc Norman (Australian National University).

The center is part of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute.

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), operated by Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo program to foster worldwide collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program.

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