And as far as we know, it has been forming in the earth’s upper atmosphere since the atmosphere was made back on Day Two of Creation Week (part of the expanse, or firmament, described in Genesis 1:6–8). Cosmic rays from outer space are continually bombarding the upper atmosphere of the earth, producing fast-moving neutrons (subatomic particles carrying no electric charge) (Figure 1a).1 These fast-moving neutrons collide with atoms of nitrogen-14, the most abundant element in the upper atmosphere, converting them into radiocarbon (carbon-14) atoms.CARBON-14 IS CREATED (Figure 1a): When cosmic rays bombard the earth’s atmosphere, they produce neutrons.Protons and neutrons make up the center (nucleus) of the atom, and electrons form shells around the nucleus.
The result is that carbon 14 is present as a constant percentage of the total carbon in the atmosphere, although it does change slightly depending upon the amount of cosmic radiation reaching the atmosphere.
However, a correction can be made on the basis of carbon 14 readings on items whose age is known from archeological records.
These excited neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere, changing them into radioactive carbon-14 atoms.
CARBON-14 IS ABSORBED (Figure 1b): Plants absorb this carbon-14 during photosynthesis.
Although many people think radiocarbon dating is used to date rocks, it is limited to dating things that contain the element carbon and were once alive (like fossils).