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Then, by assessing the isotope concentrations of rubidium and strontium, scientists can back-calculate to determine when the rock was formed.
The three isotopes mentioned can be used for dating rock formations and meteorites; the method typically works best on igneous rocks. The data from radioisotope analysis tends to be somewhat scattered.
Continue reading The most widely used tool to measure the age of the Earth is radioactive decay.
The great scientist Ernest Rutherford was the first to define the concept of “half-life,” that is, the time it takes for one half of the atoms in a given quantity of a radioactive element (such as plutonium) to decay into another element (such as uranium), or for one isotope of an element (such as carbon-14) to decay into another isotope of that same element (such as carbon-12).
The number of protons in an atom determines which element it is, while the number of neutrons determines which isotope it is.
For example, strontium-86 has 38 protons and 48 neutrons, whereas strontium-87 has 38 protons and 49 neutrons.
Using potassium-argon dating as an example, potassium-40 decays into argon-40 with a half-life of 1.25 billion years.