Absolute dating of a fossil

For example, by using a laser, researchers can measure parent and daughter atoms in extremely small amounts of matter, making it possible to determine the age of very small samples [source: New Scientist].Unlike people, you can’t really guess the age of a rock from looking at it.While the oldest known rocks on Earth are about 3.5 billion years old, researchers have found zircon crystals that are 4.3 billion years old [source: USGS].Based on the analysis of these samples, scientists estimate that the Earth itself is about 4.5 billion years old.With absolute age dating, you get a real age in actual years.It’s based either on fossils which are recognized to represent a particular interval of time, or on radioactive decay of specific isotopes. Based on the Rule of Superposition, certain organisms clearly lived before others, during certain geologic times.

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Unfortunately, these elements don't exist in dinosaur fossils themselves.But this sediment doesn't typically include the necessary isotopes in measurable amounts.Fossils can't form in the igneous rock that usually does contain the isotopes.Using the basic ideas of bracketing and radiometric dating, researchers have determined the age of rock layers all over the world.This information has also helped determine the age of the Earth itself.

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