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Posted by / 01-Feb-2020 02:28

Thus, when a geologist dates a rock using uranium-lead dating, he or she is actually getting an estimate on the age of its zircon crystals, which formed "shortly" before the volcanic eruption.Of course, in this case "shortly" is meant in terms of geologic timescales.How can the formation of a rock be correlated with a particular ancient event?

In the magma, crystals of zirconium silicate (called zircons), as well as other crystals, form.These zircon crystals are tiny — just a tenth of a millimeter long — but they are the key to uranium-lead dating.If these crystals were pure, they would contain just zirconium, silica, and oxygen; however, uranium happens to have a similar arrangement of outer electrons to zirconium, and so as zircons form, "mistakes" are sometimes made, and uranium is substituted for zirconium.Radioactive decay Radioisotopic dating relies on the process of radioactive decay, in which the nuclei of radioactive atoms emit particles.This releases energy (in the form of radiation) and often transforms one element into another.

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For practice, use the graph above to estimate the age of a rock sample that contains 10% uranium and 90% lead.

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