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Gregory Brennecka of Arizona State University and colleagues measured the relative amounts of Uranium 238 to Uranium 235 from several samples taken from the large Allende meteorite, named for the village in Mexico near where it landed in 1969.
With the more sensitive instrument, they detected small differences in isotope ratios from different inclusions within the same meteorite..
The differing amounts of material that were found in separate samplings of the same meteorite were unexpected.
The current standard age assigned to the solar system of 4.6 billion years was determined by studying the Uranium-to-Lead decay systems in meteorites, which are assumed to have formed before the planets did.
This age was based on the belief that the rate of decay has been constant, and that Uranium 238 will be present in a known ratio to Uranium 235.