Origin of carbon dating

"Understanding carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen is very important," she says. If you want to interpret other galaxies, you'd better be sure of how the evolution of these elements goes." The best place to gain that understanding, she says, is right here in the Milky Way.

If the amount of carbon 14 is halved every 5,730 years, it will not take very long to reach an amount that is too small to analyze.This rate reveals whether the carbon came from exploding or nonexploding stars--because the former have much shorter lives.Stars that explode as supernovae are usually born with more than 8 times the Sun's mass.So, the fossil is 8,680 years old, meaning the living organism died 8,680 years ago.January 11, 2006 The Ring Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope. Most of the carbon supporting life on Earth was forged by stars that never exploded, say astronomers in Michigan and Sweden.

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