Carbon dating explained for kids

We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.Just the facts Carbon: From stars to life As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.Most carbon consists of the isotopes carbon 12 and carbon 13, which are very stable.A very small percentage of carbon, however, consists of the isotope carbon 14, or radiocarbon, which is unstable.

Carbon combines with other elements in complex ways to form the molecules that make up our bodies.Plants obtain all their carbon atoms from the atmosphere.Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. 1979, 1986 © Harper Collins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 Cite This Source radiocarbon dating A technique for measuring the age of organic remains based on the rate of decay of carbon 14.Radiocarbon is not stable; over time radiocarbon atoms decay into nitrogen atoms.This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.