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Treasure Hunt in Earth’s Attic

Like an attic of ancient treasures, the Moon preserves Earth’s lost history.

Lava Flow at Krafla The Earth’s surface is constantly recycled. Dynamic forces tear apart and shove together the plates that make up Earth’s outer layer. This motion destroys older plates and their rocks in some places. In others, like here in Iceland, the forces create new crust. Wind, water, and ice wear down the surface.

These processes prevent ancient rocks from being preserved. Earth has no geological record of its early history.

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Image credit: US Geological Survey

   
Moon's surface

The Moon’s static environment preserves rocks from its origin. There are no active volcanoes to hide the Moon’s features under lava flows. There is no atmosphere, so there is no wind to erode the Moon’s ancient landscape. No flowing water or glaciers wear away the surface. Other than asteroid and comet impacts, no geologic activity has altered the Moon’s surface for at least a billion years.

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Image credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute

   
Approach Moon

Because the oldest rocks on Earth were recycled long ago, we must turn to the Moon for clues about our own origins. Indeed, Moon rocks might hold answers to questions about when and how life began on Earth!

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