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In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.What’s more, if the whole rock is badly weathered, it will be hard to find an intact mineral grain containing radioactive isotopes.You might have noticed that many of the oldest age dates come from a mineral called zircon.

No bones about it, fossils are important age markers.Carbon normally occurs as Carbon-12, but radioactive Carbon-14 may sometimes be formed in the outer atmosphere as Nitrogen-14 undergoes cosmic ray bombardment.The resulting C-14 is unstable and decays back to N-14 with a measured half-life of approximately 5,730 years.I also like this simple exercise, a spin-off from an activity described on the USGS site above.Take students on a neighborhood walk and see what you can observe about age dates around you.

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