Our Solar System: Now With 2 Million Years More Maturity
New measurements of an old rock show that the solar system may be up to 2 million years older than scientists previously thought. The new birth date could resolve a major controversy among geochemists, and it provides extra evidence that the solar system got its heavy elements from the explosion of a nearby supernova.
The currently accepted age of the solar system — about 4.56 billion years — was calculated by measuring parts of meteorites called calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions, which are thought to be the first solids to have condensed from the cloud of gas that formed the sun and planets.
The inclusions’ ages come from measuring how much of certain radioactive isotopes, versions of the same element that have different atomic masses, and their decay products are in the rock. Because a parent isotope decays into a daughter isotope at a set rate, scientists can work backwards to get an age for the rock by comparing the amounts of these isotopes.
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