Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon.
Can carbon-14 be used to date the Earth?
Geologists do not use carbon-based radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks. Carbon dating only works for objects that are younger than about 50,000 years, and most rocks of interest are older than that. Over time, carbon-14 decays radioactively and turns into nitrogen.
How is carbon-14 dating done?
Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon. Most 14C is produced in the upper atmosphere where neutrons, which are produced by cosmic rays, react with 14N atoms. It is then oxidised to create 14CO2, which is dispersed through the atmosphere and mixed with 12CO2 and 13CO2.