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Using certain cosmogenic radionuclides, scientists can date how long a particular surface has been exposed, how long a certain piece of material has been buried, or how quickly a location or drainage basin is eroding.Accordingly, by measuring the concentration of these cosmogenic nuclides in a rock sample, and accounting for the flux of the cosmic rays and the half-life of the nuclide, it is possible to estimate how long the sample has been exposed to the cosmic rays.In rock and other materials of similar density, most of the cosmic ray flux is absorbed within the first meter of exposed material in reactions that produce new isotopes called cosmogenic nuclides.At Earth's surface most of these nuclides are produced by neutron spallation.

Earth is constantly bombarded with primary cosmic rays, high energy charged particles — mostly protons and alpha particles.

These particles interact with atoms in atmospheric gases, producing a cascade of secondary particles that may in turn interact and reduce their energies in many reactions as they pass through the atmosphere.

It is most useful for rocks which have been exposed for between 10 years and 30,000,000 years.

The most common of these dating techniques is Cosmogenic radionuclide dating.

The cumulative flux of cosmic rays at a particular location can be affected by several factors, including elevation, geomagnetic latitude, the varying intensity of the Earth's magnetic field, solar winds, and atmospheric shielding due to air pressure variations.

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Rates of nuclide production must be estimated in order to date a rock sample.