Since the last astronauts of the Apollo program went to the Moon in 1972, no human has set foot on it again, but the samples they brought back from our satellite continue to be studied and offer new data, such as those revealed by a team of scientists this Monday.
A new analysis of dust collected by astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt During the last mission that explored the Moon, Apollo 17, our satellite has aged 40 million years. As the authors explain in a study published in the journal Geochemical Perspectives Lettersits age would be at least 4.46 billion years.
For astrophysicists, determining when our satellite formed is one of the most interesting aspects of studying our solar system. The most accepted theory is that When the Earth was forming, a large object the size of Mars collided with our planet. The largest fragment that broke off during that violent collision gave rise to our Moon.
“It is important to know when the Moon formed because it is a socio important in our planetary system: it stabilizes the Earth’s axis of rotation, and is the reason why there are 24 hours in a day and why we have tides,” explained Philipp Heck, curator of meteorites and polar studies at the Field Museum in Chicago and lead author of this study.
“It’s amazing to have proof that the rock you’re holding is the oldest part of the Moon we’ve found so far,” declared Jennika Greer, co-author of this study that arose when she was doing her doctorate at the University of Chicago. As this scientist who is currently researching at the University of Glasgow explains, these samples are “an anchor to answer so many questions about the Earth. When you know how old something is, you can better understand what has happened to it throughout its history.”