Dating the age of rocks
Dating the age of rocks - online dating newsletter
For example, the decay of potassium-40 to argon-40 is used to date rocks older than 20,000 years, and the decay of uranium-238 to lead-206 is used for rocks older than 1 million years.Radiocarbon dating measures radioactive isotopes in once-living organic material instead of rock, using the decay of carbon-14 to nitrogen-14.
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Because of the fairly fast decay rate of carbon-14, it can only be used on material up to about 60,000 years old.
Geologists use radiocarbon to date such materials as wood and pollen trapped in sediment, which indicates the date of the sediment itself.
The table below shows characteristics of some common radiometric dating methods.
Geologists choose a dating method that suits the materials available in their rocks. Measuring isotopes is particularly useful for dating igneous and some metamorphic rock, but not sedimentary rock.
Isochron plots for the rubidium-strontium system applied to old rocks from Greenland and for chrondritic meteorites.
In practice great care is necessary in applying isotopic methods to date rocks.
For example, fission track dating measures the microscopic marks left in crystals by subatomic particles from decaying isotopes.
Another example is luminescence dating, which measures the energy from radioactive decay that is trapped inside nearby crystals.
These rates of decay are known, so if you can measure the proportion of parent and daughter isotopes in rocks now, you can calculate when the rocks were formed.
Because of their unique decay rates, different elements are used for dating different age ranges.
Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find.