February 21, 2019

Scientists found Earth’s oldest rock on Moon

27 January 2019, 08:27 | Edward Lowe

Researchers believe that the rock fragment may have originated on the Earth

Scientists find Earth's oldest rock on Moon and they have a wild theory to explain how it got there

What may be one of the oldest known rocks from Earth has been found in the material that Apollo 14 astronauts brought home from the moon almost 50 years ago.

In 1971, Apollo 14 astronauts brought home various minerals and rock samples from their brief lunar voyage.

NASA's Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) have identified this small specimen as terrestrial due to it containing a number of various minerals like quartz and feldspar, which are common on Earth but rare on the Moon. We've even found pieces of Mars falling to the ground here on Earth after they were kicked into space by an impact.

One of Earth's oldest rocks may have been dug up on the moon.

There, Apollo 14 crew member Alan Shepard collected the rock, designated it as 14321 and brought it back to Earth.

So, how did it end up on the moon? If we assume that it could be on the moon, then given the pressure of crystallization of this would have happened at a depth of 167 kilometers, which is extremely unlikely, not to mention the oxygen level, which had a companion four billion years ago.

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"It's quite a violent process and chemistry changes as a result of that". Then, a massive collision between Earth and a comet or asteroid threw the rock to the Moon.

Nemchin is quick to point out that he and his team are not 100 percent certain that the sample originated on Earth although the evidence would suggest that.

It is possible that the sample is not of terrestrial origin, but instead crystallised on the Moon, however, that would require conditions never before inferred from lunar samples, researchers said.

After the sample hit the Moon's surface, "other impact events" helped shape it, including one event some 3.9 billion years ago, the researchers said.

You might be thinking that's an bad long way for a rock to travel, even if was the result of a colossal strike, but at this time the moon was three times closer to Earth than it is now.

The study has been published in the scientific journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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Chemical analyses showed the fragment crystallized in an oxidized environment at temperatures consistent with those near the subsurface of young Earth.

"For that reason it provides a neat achieve of impacts, as it is unlike the Earth, which is affected by erosion and plate tectonics that disturb impact craters".

"Therefore, the simplest interpretation is that the sample came from Earth", USRA said in the release.

It was excavated yet again by another collision 26 million years ago.

The sample was on loan from NASA to Curtin University, where it was investigated in cooperation with researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Australian National University and Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Principal investigator of the mission, Dr David A Kring, admitted that these findings will prove controversial, as being the first find of its kind means it will be put under more scrutiny in order to locate similar samples.

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