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Moon is Not as Old as Previously Thought, New Research Suggests

Update Date: Sep 28, 2013 12:34 PM EDT

Scientists have discovered that the moon is about 100 million years younger than previously thought at around 4.4 billion to 4.45 billion years old, according to new research by geochemist Richard Carlson of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Although it is the closest body to Earth in terms of space, scientists are still unsure exactly how, or when, the moon was formed. One theory suggests the moon formed when a planet, around the size of Mars, collided with Earth around 4.56 billion years ago. The theory goes on to say that the dust and debris from this impact was thrown back out into space and eventually amalgamated to create the moon.

However, new research by geochemist Richard Carlson of the Carnegie Institution of Washington has brought new light to the topic.

According to Carlson's studies, our orbiting partner is somewhat younger than previously thought - about 100 million years younger to be exact.

Previous work in this area had a large margin of error, but Carlson says improved technology has allowed him to narrow that margin significantly.  

"Back in the 1970s, you couldn't distinguish between 4.45 and 4.55 billion years," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Today, we can, and everything we are seeing suggests the 4.4 billion number."

Carlson's radioactive dating analysis of lunar rocks collected and returned during the Apollo missions suggest the moon formed between 4.4 and 4.45 billion years ago. If this new understanding holds any water, then all we think we have known about the history of the satellite can be thrown out the cosmic window.

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