The planet we're living on is about 60 million years older than previously thought. So say scientists in France who studied quartz from Australia and South Africa that dates back about 3 billion years, reports Phys.org. The ratio of gases in the quartz compared to today's ratios suggest both the Earth and the moon were created about 40 million years after the formation of the solar system, rather than the previous estimate of 100 million years afterward. That's likely when a collision happened that left behind Earth as we know it—and formed the moon, the Huffington Post explains.
At that time, experts think, an object the size of Mars smashed into the predecessor of our planet, the Los Angeles Times reports. That collision created Earth's atmosphere, while the resulting debris formed the moon. "The gas sealed in these quartz samples has been handed down to us in a sort of 'time capsule,'" says a scientist from the University of Lorraine. "We are using standard methods to compute the age of the Earth, but having access to these ancient samples gives us new data." (Scientists recently found evidence in lunar rocks of that long-ago collision.)