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The geologic time scale, back to the oldest rocks, some 4,280,000,000 years ago, can be quantified by isotopic dating techniques.
(For further examples, Moon, for example, provided scientists with firsthand information on lunar geology, including observations on such features as meteorite craters that are relatively rare on Earth.
Geomorphology is concerned with the surface processes that create the landscapes of the world—namely, weathering and erosion.
Weathering is the alteration and breakdown of rocks at the Earth’s surface caused by local atmospheric conditions, while erosion is the process by which the weathering products are removed by water, ice, and wind.
This in turn helps in interpreting the mode of formation and the depositional environment of sedimentary rocks.
Thus the discipline of geomorphology is fundamental to the uniformitarian approach to the Earth sciences according to which the present is the key to the past.
Determining the Mohs scale of hardness, which lists 10 common minerals in their relative order of hardness: talc (softest with the scale number 1), gypsum (2), calcite (3), fluorite (4), apatite (5), orthoclase (6), quartz (7), topaz (8), corundum (9), and diamond (10).
Harder minerals scratch softer ones, so that an unknown mineral can be readily positioned between minerals on the scale.Many rocks have a more complex mineralogy, and in some the mineral particles are so minute that they can be identified only through specialized techniques.It is possible to identify an individual mineral in a specimen by examining and testing its physical properties.Earth’s rocks are composed of minerals—inorganic elements or compounds that have a fixed chemical composition and that are made up of regularly aligned rows of atoms.Today one of the principal concerns of mineralogy is the chemical analysis of the some 3,000 known minerals that are the chief constituents of the three different rock types: sedimentary (formed by diagenesis of sediments deposited by surface processes); igneous (crystallized from magmas either at depth or at the surface as lavas); and metamorphic (formed by a recrystallization process at temperatures and pressures in the Earth’s crust high enough to destabilize the parent sedimentary or igneous material).Unmanned space probes have yielded significant data on the surface features of many of the planets and their satellites.