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What is radioisotope dating used for

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By evaluating the concentrations of all of these isotopes in a rock sample, scientists can determine what its original make-up of strontium and rubidium were.

Then, by assessing the isotope concentrations of rubidium and strontium, scientists can back-calculate to determine when the rock was formed.

But, how can we determine how old a rock formation is, if it hasn’t previously been dated?

Scientists can use certain types of fossils referred to as index fossils to assist in relative dating via correlation.

For example, strontium-86 has 38 protons and 48 neutrons, whereas strontium-87 has 38 protons and 49 neutrons.

Radioactive elements, such as rubidium-87 (but not strontium-86 or strontium-87), decay over time.

Analyzing specimens whose relative geologic ages were known, Boltwood found that the ratio of lead to uranium did indeed increase...

Scientific knowledge of Earth’s geologic history has advanced significantly since the development of radiometric dating, a method of age determination based on the principle that radioactive atoms in geologic materials decay at constant, known rates to daughter atoms.

There are two main methods determining a fossils age, relative dating and absolute dating.

So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.

Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes.

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.