Adjusting the Solar System's Absolute Clock

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Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 422-423
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183755

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Meteorites and their components provide the only means to study the circumstances and processes that gave rise to our solar system. But the task of unraveling our origins is by no means straightforward. A single undifferentiated meteorite—a chondrite—typically contains matrix and inclusions formed over a wide range of conditions and time before eventually being accreted into a single body. Understanding this complex assemblage, especially over the critical first 10 million years, allows the formulation of models of the spatially and temporally evolving thermochemical conditions that gave rise to the solar system. Geochronology—the determination of ages of events recorded by meteorites—provides the requisite temporal information. Although advances have been made over the past decade in this field, on page 449 of this issue, Brennecka et al. (1) present data suggesting that a basic assumption for the use of the U-Pb chronometer in geochronology, the golden spike for deep time, may be incorrect.