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Only hard parts, like bones and teeth, can become fossils.But for some people, the discovery raised a different question.he question of the ages of the Earth and its rock formations and features has fascinated philosophers, theologians, and scientists for centuries, primarily because the answers put our lives in temporal perspective.Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology.Radiometric dating relies on the properties of isotopes.These are chemical elements, like carbon or uranium, that are identical except for one key feature -- the number of neutrons in their nucleus.
But these inaccuracies are the result of variation in the level of Carbon 14 in the atmosphere, and when this is worked out (through calibration with tree rings of the bristlecone pine, the oldest living organism) precise dates can be had.Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments—like analyzing meteorites and moon rocks—have always been done on Earth.Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock—with experiments performed on Mars.The smooth floor of Yellowknife Bay is made up of a fine-grained sedimentary rock, or mudstone, that researchers think was deposited on the bed of an ancient Martian lake.
In March, Curiosity drilled holes into the mudstone and collected powdered rock samples from two locations about three meters apart.
With the discovery of radiometric dating, it became possible for the first time to attempt precise figures.