Radioactive dating is also called
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We have rocks from the Moon (brought back), meteorites, and rocks that we know came from Mars.We can then use radioactive age dating in order to date the ages of the surfaces (when the rocks first formed, i.e. We also have meteorites from asteroids and can date them, too.
This predictable decay is called the half-life of the parent atom, the time it takes for one half of all of the parent atoms to transform into the daughter.
Once the half life of an isotope and its decay path are known, it is possible to use the radioactive decay for dating the substance (rock) it belongs to, by measuring the amount of parent and daughter contained in the sample.
An important point is that we must have an idea of how much of the daughter isotope was in the sample before the decay started.
This may simply have to do with what the media is talking about.
When there is a scientific discussion about the age of, say a meteorite or the Earth, the media just talks about the large numbers and not about the dating technique (e.g. On the other hand, when the media talk about "more recent events," ages that are more comprehendible, such as when early Man built a fire or even how old a painting is (or some ancient parchment), then we bring up the dating technique in order to better validate the findings.
When the number of neutrons is not in balance with the protons then the atom of that particular element is said to be unstable.
In nature, all elements have atoms with varying numbers of neutrons in their nucleus.
We have an activity in one of the PSI workshops "Exploring the Terrestrial Planets," that deals with this topic.
So, you can use the radioactive elements to measure the age of rocks and minerals. Their useful range is from about 1/10 their half-life (the time it takes for half of the radioactive element/isotope-- the parent, to convert into a non-radioactive element/isotope-- the daughter) to 10 times their half-life. You can use this to measure the age of a rock from about 128 million years to more than 10 billion years (the Solar System is 4.56 billion years old).
The amount of time it takes for an unstable isotope to decay is determined statistically by looking at how long it takes for a large number of the same radioactive isotopes to decay to half its original amount.
This time is known as the half-life of the radioactive isotope.
These differing atoms are called isotopes and they are represented by the sum of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Carbon has 6 protons in its nucleus, but the number of neutrons its nucleus can host range from 6 to 8.