Methods of dating rock layers

Carbon-14 is a method used for young (less than 50,000 year old) sedimentary rocks.This method relies on the uptake of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope of carbon, carbon-14 by all living things.Since the 1950s, geologists have used radioactive elements as natural "clocks" for determining numerical ages of certain types of rocks. "Forms" means the moment an igneous rock solidifies from magma, a sedimentary rock layer is deposited, or a rock heated by metamorphism cools off.It's this resetting process that gives us the ability to date rocks that formed at different times in earth history.Radiometric dating has been used to determine the ages of the Earth, Moon, meteorites, ages of fossils, including early man, timing of glaciations, ages of mineral deposits, recurrence rates of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the history of reversals of Earth's magnetic field, and many of other geological events and processes.The Age of Dinosaurs was so many millions of years ago that it is very difficult to date exactly.

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Radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate, specific to each radioactive isotope.When living things die, they stop taking in carbon-14, and the radioactive clock is "set"!Any dead material incorporated with sedimentary deposits is a possible candidate for carbon-14 dating.Radioactive elements were incorporated into the Earth when the Solar System formed.

All rocks and minerals contain tiny amounts of these radioactive elements.Scientists use two kinds of dating techniques to work out the age of rocks and fossils. This considers the positions of the different rocks in sequence (in relation to each other) and the different types of fossil that are found in them.

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