Scientists found Earth’s oldest rock on Moon

Kring  Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

Kring Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

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

Scientists revealed that the rock was formed at temperatures associated with Earth and Earth-like settings, likely some 12.4 miles below the Earth's surface.

The "moon rock" probably collided with the moon after an impact sent it hurtling from Earth 4 billion years ago, according to research published Thursday in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The rock would have to be made of an extremely high amount of earth minerals and an extremely low amount of minerals common on the moon, something not found in any other moon rock samples.

An worldwide team of scientists associated with the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), part of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, found evidence that the rock was launched from Earth by a large impacting asteroid or comet.

Nope. According to an worldwide team of scientists, there's evidence the rock was terrestrial in origin - it's a 2-gram piece of quartz, feldspar, and zircon embedded in a larger chunk of rock called Big Bertha - minerals that are rare on the Moon, but really common here on Earth.

The team was able to perform more detailed analyses on the rock.

Available evidence suggests that the fragment crystallised about 20 km beneath the Earth's surface, and was launched into space by a powerful impact shortly thereafter.

However, it is the simplest explanation; a lunar birth would require a rethink of the conditions present in the moon's interior long ago, the researchers said.

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Once that information sinks in, imagine how the trajectory of the rock billions of years ago when asteroids hit our planet.

Rock fragment from the Moon. 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. Once on the moon, the rock was further sculpted by new impacts which melted and altered it into a new kind of rock about 3.9 billion years ago.

The Earth is believed to have been formed in the early Solar System almost 4.5 billion years ago. It may have formed on Earth but ended up on the moon due to a massive asteroid impact.

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.

Kring expects that some geologists in the scientific community won't accept the finding because it seems controversial.

Reference: "Terrestrial-like Zircon in a Clast from an Apollo 14 Breccia", J. J. Bellucci et al., 2019 January 24, Earth and Planetary Science Letters [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2019.01.010, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X19300202].

The research is supported by NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) through a cooperative agreement with the CLSE, a joint venture between the LPI and NASA's Johnson Space Center.

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