is a technique used by scientists to learn the ages of biological specimens – for example, wooden archaeological artifacts or ancient human remains – from the distant past.It can be used on objects as old as about 62,000 years.
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Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Cosmic rays bombard Earth’s atmosphere, creating the unstable isotope carbon-14.
Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. This isotope lets scientists learn the ages of once-living specimens from long ago.
Image via The Cosmic Story of Carbon-14 by Ethan Siegel, via Simon Swordy (U.
Chicago), via NASA of those two isotopes in a sample.
Most carbon on Earth exists as the very stable isotope carbon-12, with a very small amount as carbon-13.