If there are any of Earth's primordial rocks left in their original state, they have not yet been found. Nevertheless, scientists have been able to determine the probable age of the Solar System and to calculate an age for the Earth by assuming that the Earth and the rest of the solid bodies in the Solar System formed at the same time and are, therefore, of the same age.
The ages of Earth and Moon rocks and of meteorites are measured by the decay of long-lived radioactive isotopes of elements that occur naturally in rocks and minerals and that decay with half lives of million to more than billion years to stable isotopes of other elements.
These dating techniques, which are firmly grounded in earth dating methods best and are known collectively as radiometric dating, are used to measure the last time that the rock being dated was either melted or disturbed sufficiently to rehomogenize its radioactive elements. Click on the image to see a graphical representation of geologic time [K] Ancient rocks exceeding 3.
An interesting feature of these ancient rocks is that they are not from any sort of "primordial crust" but are lava flows and sediments deposited in shallow water, an indication that Earth history began well before these rocks were deposited. In Western Australia, single zircon crystals found in younger sedimentary rocks have radiometric ages of as much as 4.
Zircon Chronology: Dating the Oldest Material on Earth, AMNH
The source rocks for these zircon crystals have not yet been found. The ages measured for Earth's oldest rocks and oldest crystals show that the Earth is at least 4. The best age for the Earth 4. In addition, mineral grains zircon with U-Pb ages of 4.
The Moon is a more primitive planet than Earth because it has not been disturbed by plate tectonics; thus, some of its more ancient rocks are more plentiful. Only a small number of rocks were returned to Earth by the six Apollo and three Luna missions.
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These rocks vary greatly in age, a reflection of their different ages of formation and their subsequent histories. The oldest dated moon rocks, however, have ages between 4. Thousands of meteorites, which are earths dating methods best of asteroids that fall to Earth, have been recovered.
These primitive objects provide the best ages for the time of formation of the Solar System. There are more than 70 meteorites, of different types, whose ages have been measured using radiometric dating techniques.
The results show that the meteorites, and therefore the Solar System, formed between 4. The best age for the Earth comes not from dating individual rocks but by considering the Earth and meteorites as part of the same evolving system in which the isotopic composition of lead, specifically the ratio of lead to lead changes over time owing to the decay of radioactive uranium and uraniumrespectively.
Scientists have used this approach to determine the time required for the isotopes in the Earth's oldest lead ores, of which there are only a few, to evolve from its primordial composition, as measured in uranium-free phases of iron meteorites, to its compositions at the time these lead ores separated from their mantle reservoirs.
These calculations result in an age for the Earth and meteorites, and hence the Solar System, of 4.
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To be precise, this age represents the last time that lead isotopes were homogeneous througout the inner Solar System and the time that lead and uranium was incorporated into the solid bodies of the Solar System. For additional information on this subject, see G.
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#9 Dating Methods and Age of Earth