An worldwide team of scientists found a tiny fragment - weighing less than an ounce - composed of quartz, feldspar and zircon in one of those moon rocks, according to a news release about the discovery. We've even found pieces of Mars falling to the ground here on Earth after they were kicked into space by an impact.
It would require the sample to have formed at tremendous depths, in the lunar mantle, where very different rock compositions are anticipated, they said. That seems to have changed, however, because a group of scientists recently announced they've found a rock that formed only half a billion years after the Earth itself. Among them, there was a rock that originated on Earth.
"In layman's terms it means this is a rock made from a jumble of previously existing rocks and rock fragments, as well as melt and impactor material formed during a large impact or series of impacts on the Moon", James Day, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who wasn't involved with the new study, told Gizmodo. The Earth fragment was likely blasted off our planet by a powerful impact about 4 billion years ago, according to the new research.
"It's quite a violent process and chemistry changes as a result of that".
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Earth's oldest rock may have been discovered and it was picked up by astronauts on the moon during the Apollo 14 in 1971.
It partially melted 3.9 billion years ago which buried it under the surface. The rock was able to make this serendipitous collision with the moon because it was three times closer to Earth at the time. Chemical analysis of the rock fragment shows it crystallized in a terrestrial-like oxidized system, at terrestrial temperatures, rather than in the reducing and higher temperature conditions characteristic of the Moon.
David Kring, CLSE principal investigator and a senior author of the recently published journal article, said that the next step is to look for similar mineral signatures in lunar samples to find more relics from the younger Earth. These minerals are very rare on the moon but quite common here on Earth.
Researchers from NASA believe that the impact of the collision jettisoned the rock into space and then landed on the surface of the Moon. While the Hadean Earth is a reasonable source for the sample, a first find of this kind may be a challenge for the geologic community to digest.
The center is part of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute.
Reference: "Terrestrial-like Zircon in a Clast from an Apollo 14 Breccia", J. J. Bellucci et al., 2019 January 24, Earth and Planetary Science Letters [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2019.01.010, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X19300202].