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Find additional lessons, activities, videos, and articles that focus on relative and absolute dating.
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Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed. So we have to rely on something called radiometric dating to figure out the age of rock.
Free 5-day trial Radiometric dating is a method used to determine the age of rocks and other materials based on the rate of radioactive decay. Radiometric dating is a method used to date rocks based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes. Now, they do not give off enough radiation that you have to be afraid to pick them up, but they do contain naturally occurring radioactive elements like uranium, for example.
The universe is full of naturally occurring radioactive elements.
Radioactive atoms are inherently unstable; over time, radioactive "parent atoms" decay into stable "daughter atoms." When molten rock cools, forming what are called igneous rocks, radioactive atoms are trapped inside. By measuring the quantity of unstable atoms left in a rock and comparing it to the quantity of stable daughter atoms in the rock, scientists can estimate the amount of time that has passed since that rock formed.
Regardless of which name you prefer, the discovery was a true breakthrough that provided a tool to predict the geological history of the Earth and even the age of the Earth itself.
To better understand how radiometric dating helps us determine the age of rocks, it will help us to gain a better understanding of how elements decay.
So, to understand this process, we need to know that an alpha particle is two protons and two neutrons bound together, which is the same as a helium nucleus.
By dating these surrounding layers, they can figure out the youngest and oldest that the fossil might be; this is known as "bracketing" the age of the sedimentary layer in which the fossils occur.