Fresh moon samples reveal key age of moon rocks

29 October 2021

A lunar probe launched by the Chinese space agency recently brought back the first fresh samples of rock and debris from the moon in more than 40 years. Now an international team of scientists -- including an expert from Washington University in St. Louis -- has determined the age of these moon rocks at close to 1.97 billion years old.

"It is the perfect sample to close a 2-billion-year gap," said Brad Jolliff, the Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences and director of the university's McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. Jolliff is a U.S.-based co-author of an analysis of the new moon rocks led by the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, published Oct. 7 in the journal Science.

The age determination is among the first scientific results reported from the successful Chang'e-5 mission, which was designed to collect and return to Earth rocks from some of the youngest volcanic surfaces on the moon.

The samples were analysed by the Beijing SHRIMP centre using their SHRIMP IIe multicollector instrument. Several different minerals were analysed and Pb-Pb dating used to obtain the age value quoted. The Beijing SHRIMP lab is held in high esteem by the Chinese Academy of Science in that the precious Lunar samples were given to the lab for analysis.

One of the coworkers and instigator for the acquisition of the first SHRIMP in China is Liu Dunyi who was in the first group of Chinese scientists to visit RSES and use SHRIMP I in the 1980's.


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