Many independent measurements have established that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. Geologists have found annual layers in ice that are easily counted to multiple tens of thousands of years, and when combined with radio isotope dating, we find hundreds of thousands of years of ice layers. Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements radiometric dating , some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while the oldest solar system rocks are dated at 4. Astronomers use the distance to galaxies and the speed of light to calculate that the light has been traveling for billions of years. The expansion of the universe gives an age for the universe as a whole: Astronomers and geologists have determined that the universe and Earth are billions of years old. This conclusion is not based on just one measurement or one calculation, but on many types of evidence. Here we will describe just two types of evidence for an old Earth and two types of evidence for an old universe; more types can be found under further reading. These methods are largely independent of each other, based on separate observations and arguments, yet all point to a history much longer than 10, years.
How Old is Earth, and How Do We Know?
How do scientists find the age of planets date samples or planetary time relative age and absolute age? If carbon is so short-lived in comparison to potassium or uranium, why is it that in terms of the media, we mostly about carbon and rarely the others? Are carbon isotopes used for age measurement of meteorite samples? We hear a lot of time estimates, X hundred millions, X million years, etc.
In nature, all elements have atoms with varying numbers of neutrons in their nucleus. These differing atoms are called isotopes and they are represented by the sum of protons and neutrons in the nucleus.
Means of determining the age of certain materials by reference to the relative abundances of the From: isotopic dating in A Dictionary of Earth Sciences».
Geologist Ralph Harvey and historian Mott Greene explain the principles of radiometric dating and its application in determining the age of Earth. As the uranium in rocks decays, it emits subatomic particles and turns into lead at a constant rate. Measuring the uranium-to-lead ratios in the oldest rocks on Earth gave scientists an estimated age of the planet of 4.
Segment from A Science Odyssey: “Origins. View in: QuickTime RealPlayer. Radiometric Dating: Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at 4. But for humans whose life span rarely reaches more than years, how can we be so sure of that ancient date? It turns out the answers are in Earth’s rocks. Even the Greeks and Romans realized that layers of sediment in rock signified old age. But it wasn’t until the late s — when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks — that serious scientific interest in geological age began.
David H. Bailey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. In one respect, science and religion have been largely reconciled since the 19th century, when geologists such as Charles Lyell recognised the evidence for a very old Earth.
Within a few decades, most mainstream religious denominations accepted this view as well.
Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at.
Means of determining the age of certain materials by reference to the relative abundances of the parent isotope which is radioactive and the daughter isotope which may or may not be radioactive. If the decay constant the half-life or disintegration rate of the parent isotope and the concentration of the daughter isotope are known, it is possible to calculate an age. See also dating methods; radioactive decay; radiocarbon dating; and radiometric dating.
The Age of the Earth
Petrology Tulane University Prof. Stephen A. Nelson Radiometric Dating Prior to the best and most accepted age of the Earth was that proposed by Lord Kelvin based on the amount of time necessary for the Earth to cool to its present temperature from a completely liquid state.
Dalrymple () cites examples of lead isotope dating that give an age for the earth of about billion years. Lead isotopes are important because two different.
It is an accurate way to date specific geologic events. This is an enormous branch of geochemistry called Geochronology. There are many radiometric clocks and when applied to appropriate materials, the dating can be very accurate. As one example, the first minerals to crystallize condense from the hot cloud of gasses that surrounded the Sun as it first became a star have been dated to plus or minus 2 million years!!
That is pretty accurate!!! Other events on earth can be dated equally well given the right minerals. For example, a problem I have worked on involving the eruption of a volcano at what is now Naples, Italy, occurred years ago with a plus or minus of years. Yes, radiometric dating is a very accurate way to date the Earth. We know it is accurate because radiometric dating is based on the radioactive decay of unstable isotopes.
For example, the element Uranium exists as one of several isotopes, some of which are unstable. When an unstable Uranium U isotope decays, it turns into an isotope of the element Lead Pb.
How is Earth’s Age Calculated?
The 4-part dialog essay review, response, and replies is in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith , the peer-reviewed journal of ASA. An examination of RATE continues with further analyses and evaluations:. Therefore RATE must propose that almost all of this decay occurred during the one-year flood, because for some unknown reason the decay rate for some atoms but not others was extremely high but only for a year, not before or after. This amount of decay would produce an immense amount of heat quickly, in less than a year.
Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements (radiometric dating), some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while.
Planet Earth doesn’t have a birth certificate to record its formation, which means scientists spent hundreds of years struggling to determine the age of the planet. So, just how old is Earth? By dating the rocks in Earth’s ever-changing crust, as well as the rocks in Earth’s neighbors, such as the moon and visiting meteorites, scientists have calculated that Earth is 4. Related: How Big is Earth? Scientists have made several attempts to date the planet over the past years.
They’ve attempted to predict the age based on changing sea levels, the time it took for Earth or the sun to cool to present temperatures, and the salinity of the ocean.
How Science Figured Out the Age of Earth
When asked for your age, it’s likely you won’t slip with the exception of a recent birthday mistake. But for the sprawling sphere we call home, age is a much trickier matter. Before so-called radiometric dating, Earth’s age was anybody’s guess. Our planet was pegged at a youthful few thousand years old by Bible readers by counting all the “begats” since Adam as late as the end of the 19th century, with physicist Lord Kelvin providing another nascent estimate of million years.
Kelvin defended this calculation throughout his life, even disputing Darwin’s explanations of evolution as impossible in that time period. In , Marie Curie discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity, in which unstable atoms lose energy, or decay, by emitting radiation in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves.
Most estimates of the age of the earth are founded on this assumption. However, new observations have found that those nuclear decay rates actually fluctuate.
Nineteenth century geologists recognized that rocks formed slowly as mountains eroded and sediments settled on the ocean floor. But they could not say just how long such processes had taken, and thus how old their fossils were. He came up with that figure by estimating how long it had taken for the planet to cool down to its current temperature from its molten infancy. But Kelvin didn’t, and couldn’t, know that radioactive atoms such as uranium were breaking down and keeping the planet warmer than it would be otherwise.
An older Earth At the dawn of the twentieth century, physicists made a revolutionary discovery: elements are not eternal. Atoms can fuse together to create new elements; they can also spontaneously break down, firing off subatomic particles and switching from one element to another in the process see figure, right. While some physicists used these discoveries for applications ranging from nuclear weapons to nuclear medicine, others applied them to understanding the natural world.
The sun was once thought to burn like a coal fire, but physicists showed that it actually generates energy by slamming atoms together and creating new elements. The primordial cloud of dust that came to form the Earth contained unstable atoms, known as radioactive isotopes. Since its birth, these isotopes have been breaking down and releasing energy that adds heat to the planet’s interior. Scientists measure the ages of rock layers on Earth using radiometric dating.
About Isotopic Dating: Yardsticks for Geologic Time
Originally, fossils only provided us with relative ages because, although early paleontologists understood biological succession, they did not know the absolute ages of the different organisms. It was only in the early part of the 20th century, when isotopic dating methods were first applied, that it became possible to discover the absolute ages of the rocks containing fossils.
In most cases, we cannot use isotopic techniques to directly date fossils or the sedimentary rocks in which they are found, but we can constrain their ages by dating igneous rocks that cut across sedimentary rocks, or volcanic ash layers that lie within sedimentary layers. Isotopic dating of rocks, or the minerals within them, is based upon the fact that we know the decay rates of certain unstable isotopes of elements, and that these decay rates have been constant throughout geological time.
It is also based on the premise that when the atoms of an element decay within a mineral or a rock, they remain trapped in the mineral or rock, and do not escape. It has a half-life of 1.
Radiometric dating puts paid to some cherished beliefs kind of. which pegs the age of the earth at billion years, and the age of the.
The work of geologists is to tell the true story of Earth’s history—more precisely, a story of Earth’s history that is ever truer. A hundred years ago, we had little idea of the story’s length—we had no good yardstick for time. Today, with the help of isotopic dating methods, we can determine the ages of rocks nearly as well as we map the rocks themselves. For that, we can thank radioactivity, discovered at the turn of the last century. A hundred years ago, our ideas about the ages of rocks and the age of the Earth were vague.
But obviously, rocks are very old things. Judging from the number of rocks there are, plus the imperceptible rates of the processes forming them—erosion, burial, fossilization , uplift—the geologic record must represent untold millions of years of time. It is that insight, first expressed in , that made James Hutton the father of geology. So we knew about ” deep time ,” but exploring it was frustrating.
For more than a hundred years the best method of arranging its history was the use of fossils or biostratigraphy.
4.55 ± 0.05 Gyr
The age of Earth is estimated to be 4. Following the development of radiometric age-dating in the early 20th century, measurements of lead in uranium-rich minerals showed that some were in excess of a billion years old. It is hypothesised that the accretion of Earth began soon after the formation of the calcium-aluminium-rich inclusions and the meteorites.
Because the time this accretion process took is not yet known, and predictions from different accretion models range from a few million up to about million years, the difference between the age of Earth and of the oldest rocks is difficult to determine. It is also difficult to determine the exact age of the oldest rocks on Earth, exposed at the surface, as they are aggregates of minerals of possibly different ages.
Studies of strata —the layering of rocks and earth—gave naturalists an appreciation that Earth may have been through many changes during its existence.
These are isotopes produced as a result of the bombardment of the Earth by high-energy gamma or cosmic rays. Age Dating by Radioactive Isotopes.
William Thompson later Lord Kelvin determined the age of the Sun by calculating the time it would take to cool to its present conditions. Later, Kelvin’s calculations used Earth’s temperature change with depth, thermal properties of rocks, and a planetary body that started as a molten mass, to produce ages in the range of my. This determination was firmly grounded in the physics of late 19 th Century, so its results were considered indisputable. We will not give its derivation, but we will experiment with Kelvin’s calculation.
The relationship is:. If T o ranges from to C, the age of the earth would range from m. It was hard to argue with such sound physics, until a major discovery was made around the turn of the century: radioactivity. Up to about silica, the number of protons in an element equals the number of neutrons. Heavier elements can have several isotopic numbers, meaning different numbers of neutrons, but the same number of protons.
The discovery of radioactivity was that the occurrence of some isotopes is unstable, such that a new element is formed spontaneously. The electron is expelled from the nucleus of the new element, which produces a dangerous side effect: radiation. This type of radioactive decay is called beta decay b. There are several types of radioactive decay, which are illustrated in the Figure.
FAQ – Radioactive Age-Dating
Radiometric dating , radioactive dating or radioisotope dating is a technique which is used to date materials such as rocks or carbon , in which trace radioactive impurities were selectively incorporated when they were formed. The method compares the abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate of decay. Together with stratigraphic principles , radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geologic time scale.
By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.
The following radioactive decay processes have proven particularly useful in radioactive dating for geologic processes:. Note that uranium and uranium give rise to two of the natural radioactive series , but rubidium and potassium do not give rise to series. They each stop with a single daughter product which is stable. Some of the decays which are useful for dating, with their half-lives and decay constants are:.
The half-life is for the parent isotope and so includes both decays. Some decays with shorter half-lives are also useful. Of these, the 14 C is unique and used in carbon dating. Note that the decay constant scale in the table below was kept the same as the table above for comparison. Parent isotope radioactive Daughter isotope stable Half-life y Decay constant 10 yr -1 10 Be 10 B 1. Of those isotopes, are stable and 70 are radioactive.