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Moon may be 200 million years younger than previously thought


August 19, 2011 - London

The moon may be 200 million years younger than previously believed, according to a new analysis of a lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

The prevailing theory of our Moon's origin is that it was created by a giant impact between a large planet-like object and the proto-Earth very early in the evolution of our solar system.

The energy of this impact was sufficiently high that the Moon formed from melted material that began with a deep liquid magma ocean.

As the Moon cooled, this magma ocean solidified into different mineral components, the lightest of which floated upwards to form the oldest crust.

Analysis of a lunar rock sample of this presumed ancient crust has given scientists new insights into the formation of the Moon.

The extraordinarily young age of this lunar sample either means that the Moon solidified significantly later than previous estimates - and therefore the moon itself is much younger than previously believed - or that this sample does not represent a crystallisation product of the original magma ocean, says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.

Either scenario requires major revision to previous models for the formation of the Moon.

The study was recently published in Nature.

ANI

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