(Do not confuse with the highly radioactive isotope, strontium-90.) Strontium occurs naturally as a mixture of several nuclides, including the stable isotope strontium-86.
If three different strontium-containing minerals form at the same time in the same magma, each strontium containing mineral will have the same ratios of the different strontium nuclides, since all strontium nuclides behave the same chemically.
An atom with the same number of protons in the nucleus but a different number of neutrons is called an isotope.
For example, uranium-238 is an isotope of uranium-235, because it has 3 more neutrons in the nucleus.
(Note that this does not mean that the ratios are the same everywhere on earth.
By "age" we mean the elapsed time from when the mineral specimen was formed.The amount of strontium-86 in a given mineral sample will not change.Therefore the relative amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 can be determined by expressing their ratios to strontium-86: Rb-87/Sr-86 and Sr87/Sr-86 We measure the amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 as ratios to an unchanging content of strontium-86.Therefore the amount of argon formed provides a direct measurement of the amount of potassium-40 present in the specimen when it was originally formed.Because argon is an inert gas, it is not possible that it might have been in the mineral when it was first formed from molten magma.
Potassium-Argon dating: The element potassium (symbol K) has three nuclides, K39, K40, and K41. K40 can decay in two different ways: it can break down into either calcium or argon.