Scientists say the Moon is older than previous estimates believed

A group of scientists from the University of Cologne has used new geochemical information to determine the age of the Moon using materials that were brought back to Earth from the Apollo missions. The new study says that the age of the Moon dates back to about 50 million years after the formation of the solar system.

The solar system is believed to have formed 4.56 billion years ago. That means that the Moon formed about 4.51 billion years ago. That makes the Moon significantly older than it was previously believed to be. Previous research thought that the Moon formed about 150 million years after the solar system formed.

The University of Cologne team came to its new age determination after they analyzed the chemical composition of a diverse range of samples collected during the Apollo missions. The study focused on the chemical signatures of different types of lunar samples collected by the Apollo missions.

The team compared the relative amounts of different elements in rocks formed at different times. This allowed the team to learn how each sample is related to the lunar interior and the solidification of the magma ocean. The scientists note that the Moon likely formed after a collision between a Mars-sized planetary body and the early Earth. The Moon formed over time from the cloud of material blasted into Earth orbit after the collision.

The new Moon would have been covered in a magma ocean that formed different types of rocks as it cooled. The rocks recorded information about the formation fo the Moon and can still be found on its surface today. The team used the relationship between the rare elements hafnium, uranium, and tungsten to understand the amount of melting that occurred to generate metal basalts. Combining the information on those elements with lab experiments led the team to the determination that the Moon had started solidifying as early as 50 million years after the solar system formed.