Dating of rocks

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The age of a rock can be calculated if its ratio of uranium to lead is known.

This is unstable and eventually decays to lead, which is stable.

Because of the fairly fast decay rate of carbon-14, it can only be used on material up to about 60,000 years old.

Geologists use radiocarbon to date such materials as wood and pollen trapped in sediment, which indicates the date of the sediment itself.

Others measure the subatomic particles that are emitted as an isotope decays.

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However, there are radiometric dating methods that can be used on sedimentary rock, including luminescence dating.

Each original isotope, called the parent, gradually decays to form a new isotope, called the daughter.

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