Follow the links below to learn more about radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating uses carbon isotopes A special kind of radiocarbon dating: Bomb radiocarbon dating What is an isotope?
To understand radiocarbon dating, you first have to understand the word Although an element’s number of protons cannot change, the number of neutrons can vary slightly from each atom.
Today, with the help of isotopic dating methods, we can determine the ages of rocks nearly as well as we map the rocks themselves.For that we can thank radioactivity, discovered at the turn of the last century.The atoms of some chemical elements have different forms, called isotopes.These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately 507 million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about 507 million years old.
But, how can we determine how old a rock formation is, if it hasn’t previously been dated?
Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known.
For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation.
Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.
Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.
When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.