Todays knowledge of fossil ages comes primarily from radiometric dating, also known as radioactive dating. Radiometric dating relies on the properties of isotopes. These are chemical elements, like carbon or uranium, that are identical except for one key feature -- the number of neutrons in their nucleus.
Which method would best to date a dinosaur bone?
Fossils themselves, and the sedimentary rocks they are found in, are very difficult to date directly. Instead, other methods are used to work out a fossils age. These include radiometric dating of volcanic layers above or below the fossils or by comparisons to similar rocks and fossils of known ages.
How can scientists tell how old bones are?
Carbon-14 is radioactive and is produced naturally in the atmosphere when cosmic rays collide with nitrogen atoms. Scientists can then compare the ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to radioactive carbon-14 to determine an approximate age of the creature by testing and analyzing its ancient, fossilized bones.
How do scientists date fossils?
To establish the age of a rock or a fossil, researchers use some type of clock to determine the date it was formed. Geologists commonly use radiometric dating methods, based on the natural radioactive decay of certain elements such as potassium and carbon, as reliable clocks to date ancient events.
How do scientists date fossils and artifacts?
Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages. Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a fossil by using radiometric dating to measure the decay of isotopes, either within the fossil or more often the rocks associated with it.