Uranium 238 dating process
This means that zircon data can tell us not only when a rock formed, but also when significant events occurred during its life.
The oldest zircon yet found dates from 4.4 billion years ago.
Natural uranium consists of three isotopes: uranium-238, uranium-235, and uranium-234. The nuclei of radioactive elements are unstable, meaning they are transformed into other elements, typically by emitting particles (and sometimes by absorbing particles).
Consider the concordia: as zircons age, they move outward along the curve.With 238U the Pb/U ratio grows much more slowly with age, but the idea is the same.If you took rocks of all ages and plotted their two Pb/U ratios from their two isotope pairs against each other on a graph, the points would form a beautiful line called a concordia (see the example in the right column).Uranium comes in two common isotopes with atomic weights of 235 and 238 (we'll call them 235U and 238U).Both are unstable and radioactive, shedding nuclear particles in a cascade that doesn't stop until they become lead (Pb).