Earth's oldest rock was picked up on the moon by Apollo 14 astronauts FOUR BILLION years after the huge asteroid impact hurled it there
- Lunar sample was taken to Earth by astronauts during the Apollo 14 mission
- Analysis of the rock proved that it was 4 billion years old and could belong to Earth
- A 2 gram fragment is composed of materials that are very unusual on the moon
Earth's oldest rock may have been discovered and it was picked up by astronauts on the moon during the Apollo 14 in 1971.
The lunar sample was brought back to Earth for further analysis after astronauts collected it during the third mission to the moon.
Now, 48 years on, experts claim that this relic was once part of Earth after it ended up on the Moon after a large comet or asteroid collided with the planet.
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Earth's oldest rock may have been discovered and it was picked up by astronauts on the moon during the Apollo 14 in 1971. This image shows the rock
Researchers from NASA believe that the impact of the collision pulled the rock into space and then landed on the surface of the Moon.
At the time the moon was three times closer to Earth than it is now.
The rock was subsequently mixed with other materials on the lunar surface into one rock fragment.
American astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Apollo 14 commander, on the Moon on February 6, 1971
It partially melted 3.9 billion years ago, which buried it under the surface.
About 26 million years ago, an asteroid hit the moon and created the Cone Crater.
The researchers believe that this impact helped bring the piece of Earth back to the Moon's surface.
"It's an extraordinary find that helps paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life," said NASA scientist Dr David Kring, who led the research.
An artistic rendering of the Hadean Earth when the rock fragment was formed. Experts now claim that the rock was once part of Earth after 'probably' ended up on the moon after Earth collided with a large comet or asteroid
A sample of basalt brought back by Apollo 14 on February 5, 1971. The researchers believe that the impact of the collision jettisoned the rock into space and then landed on the surface of the Moon. The moon was three times closer to Earth than it is now
Experts found that Moon rock formed at temperatures similar to those found on Earth today.
It crystallized about 12.4 miles below the surface between 4 billion and 4.1 billion years ago, when the Earth was young.
The team identified materials from Earth after they developed techniques for locating impact fragments in the lunar soil.
They found that the 2 gram fragment of the rock was composed of quartz, feldspar, and zircon, all commonly found on Earth and 'highly unusual' on the Moon.
It would require that the sample be formed at tremendous depths, in the lunar mantle, where different rock compositions are found.
The lunar sample was brought back to Earth for further analysis after astronauts collected it during the third mission to the moon. This image shows an artist's impression of a space rock, similar to the asteroid or comet that hit Earth to knock the chunk free (stock image)
WHAT ARE THE THEORIES ON THE ORIGIN OF THE MOON?
Many researchers believe that the moon formed after Earth was hit by a planet the size of Mars billions of years ago.
This is called the giant impact hypothesis.
The theory suggests that moon is made up of a rubble left over following a collision between our planet and a body about 4.5 billion years ago.
The colliding body is sometimes called Theia, after the mythical Greek Titan who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon.
Many researchers believe that the moon formed after Earth was hit by a planet the size of Mars billions of years ago. This is called the giant impact hypothesis
But one mystery has persisted, revealed by rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back from the moon: Why are the Moon and Earth so similar in their composition?
Several different theories have appeared over the years to explain the similar fingerprints of Earth and the Moon.
Perhaps the impact created a huge cloud of debris that was thoroughly mixed with the Earth, and then condensed to form the moon.
Or Theia could coincidentally be chemically similar to young Earth.
A third possibility is that the moon formed from Earthen materials, rather than from Theia, although this would have been a very unusual type of impact.