Essay: Meteorites & Earth’s Age

Martian Chondrite Meteorite, Elizabeth G Fagan,, Lake Michigans Left Coast
Martian Chondrite Meteorite, Elizabeth G Fagan,, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

It’s not hard to find meteorites along Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. After all, they fall to Earth all the time, and some wash up on the nearest beach. This Martian meteorite retains evidence of its fall—I can almost hear the “crack!” it must have made upon impact.

Meteorites are fascinating relics of a universe in transition. They are also the most important clues in determining Earth’s exact age.

One of war’s legacies is the technology of weaponry. Sonar is the method of bouncing sound waves off underwater entities to determine their distance from the sound’s source. In WW2, the technology became the best way to locate innovative German weaponry: submarines. Sonar quickly advanced to a technology far better at mapping ocean floors than anything previously. After the war, scientists sailed the seas with sonar devices.

Plate tectonics had been something of an arcane theory before the mid-20th century. What sonar-wielding scientists learned about ocean floors after WW2 supported the theory. In the 1950s and following decades, plate tectonics became accepted science. Put simply, the theory states that Earth’s surface is made up of hard, crusty pieces—plates—that float on the liquid rock below them. The plates move around, bang into each other, spread apart from each other, creep from north to sound and back again.

When plates collide, one is forced over the other. Rock from the bottom plate is recycled into Earth’s mantle. Over billions of years, little to no of Earth’s original crust remains on its surface. And how would geologists know where to look for it? These facts made determining Earth’s true age very difficult.

Astrophysicists explain how the universe formed. They discovered how our solar system was created—the inner rocky planets, the outer gaseous planets, and among them, asteroids and meteoroids. Our solar system formed in a continuous chain of events.

Since the beginning of human history, we have observed rocks falling from the sky. When these meteorites fall in a place like the sandy void of the Sahara Desert, they easily stand out. We are reasonably sure they are in fact meteorites.

Here’s how meteorites tell us how old Earth really is. Let’s assume those meteorites formed at the same time as Earth. If we know their age, we also know Earth’s age. Meteorites are rock-hard pieces of evidence that tell us Earth is 4.567 billion years old.

Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan
Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan

A former Chicagoan, Elizabeth G Fagan is an artist, photographer, and writer who resides in southeastern Wisconsin. She calls her place in the world Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.

Fagan attended The Hammonasset School, a private arts high school in Connecticut, where she began writing and taking photographs. She earned a BA in English at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). She has an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL) from UIC. Fagan later gained an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University in Chicago.

Contact Elizabeth G Fagan

Connect with Elizabeth G Fagan

Art, content, photography,, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast © 2015–2019 Elizabeth G Fagan
Unauthorized use is prohibited


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