Earth's crust at least 4.4 bn years old
1 Mar AFP
A microscopic grain of Earth's oldest known mineral has been dated to
4.4 billion years ago, shedding light on our planet's infancy and how it
came to harbour life, researchers said.
The finding proves that Earth remained a fiery ball covered in a
magma ocean for a shorter period of time after its creation than
The Earth is thought to have formed about 4.5 billion years ago, but
little is known about its early years, particularly when it became cool
enough for the crust to congeal from a sea of molten rock and for liquid
water to form.Some had postulated the cooling would have required as
much as 600 million years.
But the discovery in recent decades of zircon crystals, some
estimated to be as old as 4.4 billion years, threw that theory into
doubt, even though the minerals' age was not conclusively proven.
Until now.The new study confirms that zircon grains harvested from
western Australia's Jack Hills region crystallised with the formation of
the Earth's crust some 4.374 billion years ago, its authors said.
This was about 160 million years after the creation of the Earth and
other planets in our solar system "much earlier than previously
believed", according to a press statement.
The findings strengthen the theory of a "cool early Earth", with
temperatures low enough for liquid water, oceans and a hydrosphere the
combined mass of water on a planet to form not long after the crust
during a period known as the Hadean.
"The study reinforces our conclusion that Earth had a hydrosphere
before 4.3 billion years ago", and possibly life not long after, said
study co-author John Valley, a geochemist from the University of