The Earth Is 60 Million Years Older Than We Thought

June 11, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

According to a new study by the European Association of Geochemistry, the earth is 60 million years older than scientists have last estimated, give or take 20 million years. What does that mean for Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Cosmic Calendar?

Science Daily explains:

Guillaume Avice and Bernard Marty analysed xenon gas found in South African and Australian quartz, which had been dated to 3.4 and 2.7 billion years respectively. The gas sealed in this quartz is preserved as in a “time capsule,” allowing Avice and Marty to compare the current isotopic ratios of xenon, with those which existed billions of years ago. Recalibrating dating techniques using the ancient gas allowed them to refine the estimate of when the Earth began to form. This allows them to calculate that the Moon-forming impact is around 60 million years (+/- 20 m. y.) older than had been thought.

Previously, the time of formation of the Earth’ s atmosphere had been estimated at around 100 million years after the solar system formation. As the atmosphere would not have survived the Moon-forming impact, this revision puts the age up to 40 million years after the solar sytem formation (so around 60 million years older than previously thought).

Of course in cosmic time, 60 million years is a coffee break, but this is still an exciting discovery for scientists researching the history of our planet and the universe. (Photo: NASA)