Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center home. The information found here reflects completed USGS work. The content of this page is static and has not been updated since the mid 's. The Earth is a constantly changing planet. Its crust is continually being created, modified, and destroyed. As a result, rocks that record its earliest history have not been found and probably no longer exist.
Nevertheless, there is substantial evidence that the Earth and the other bodies of the Solar System are 4. The principal evidence for the antiquity of Earth and its cosmic surroundings is:. Spontaneous breakdown or decay of atomic nuclei, termed radioactive decay, is the basis for all radiometric dating methods. Radioactivity was discovered in by French physicist Henri Becquerel.
By study of the decay products of uranium lead and intermediate radioactive elements that decay to lead demonstrated to B. As radioactive Parent atoms decay to stable daughter atoms as uranium decays to lead each disintegration results in one more atom of the daughter than was initially present and one less atom of the parent. The probability of a parent atom decaying in a fixed period of time is always the same for all atoms of that type regardless of temperature, pressure, or chemical conditions.
This probability of decay is the decay constant. The information radioactive dating required for one-half of any original number of parent atoms to decay is the half-life, which is related to the decay constant by a simple mathematical formula. All rocks and minerals contain long-lived radioactive elements that were incorporated into Earth when the Solar System formed. These radioactive elements constitute independent clocks that allow geologists to determine the age of the rocks in which they occur.
The radioactive parent elements used to date rocks and minerals are:. Did maksim chmerkovskiy dating meryl davis dating using the naturally-occurring radioactive elements is simple in concept even though technically complex. If we know the number of radioactive parent atoms present when a rock formed and the number present now, we can calculate the age of the rock using the decay constant.
The number of parent atoms originally present is simply the number present now plus the number of daughter atoms formed by the decay, information radioactive dating of which are quantities information radioactive dating can be measured. Samples for dating are selected carefully to avoid those that are altered, contaminated, or disturbed by later heating or chemical events. In addition to the ages of Earth, Moon, and meteorites, radiometric dating has been used to determine ages of information radioactive dating, including early man, timing of glaciations, ages of mineral deposits, recurrence rates of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the history of reversals of Earth's magnetic field, and the age and duration a wide variety of other geological events and processes.
Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices. Department of the Interior U. USGS Home Contact USGS Search USGS. Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices U. The Age of the Earth How do we know the Age of the Earth? Radiometric dating Adapted from The Age of the Earthby the Branch of Isotope Geology, United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California How do we know the Age of the Earth?
The principal evidence for the antiquity of Earth and its cosmic surroundings is: The oldest rocks on Earth, found in western Greenland, have been dated by four independent radiometric dating methods at 3. These oldest rocks are information radioactive dating rocks but they originated as lava flows and sedimentary rocks. The debris from which the sedimentary rocks formed must have come from even older crustal rocks.
The oldest dated minerals 4. The oldest Moon rocks are from the lunar highlands and were formed when the early lunar crust was partially or entirely molten. These rocks, of which only a few were returned by the Information radioactive dating missions, have been dated by two methods at between 4. The majority of the 70 well-dated meteorites have ages of 4. These meteorites, which are information radioactive dating of asteroids and represent some of the most primitive material in the solar system, have been dated by 5 independent radiometric dating methods.
The "best" age for the Earth is based on the time required for the lead isotopes in four very old lead ores galena to have evolved from the composition of lead at the time the Solar System formed, as recorded in the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite. This "model lead age" is 4. The evidence information radioactive dating the antiquity of the Earth and Solar System is consistent with evidence for an even greater age for the Universe and Milky Way Information radioactive dating. The estimates range from 7 to 20 billion years, depending on whether the expansion is constant or is slowing due information radioactive dating gravitational attraction.
The age of the elements in the Galaxy, based on the production ratios of osmium isotopes in supernovae and the change in that ratio over time due to radioactive decay, is 8. Theoretical considerations indicate that the Galaxy formed within a billion years of the beginning of the Universe. For more current information on the age information radioactive dating the universe, visit NASA's Planck Mission studies.
Radiometric dating Spontaneous breakdown or decay of atomic nuclei, termed radioactive decay, is the basis for all radiometric dating methods.