Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Thermometer Confirms Wet Conditions On Earliest Earth

Date:
June 1, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Using a newly developed thermometer made of zircon, researchers have found evidence that environmental conditions on early Earth, within 200 million years of the solar system's formation, were characterized by liquid-water oceans and continental crust similar to those of the present day.

A single zircon from Earth's earliest history shows ion-probe age (1); crystallization temperatures (2); and internal chemical structure (3).
Credit: Bruce Watson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Using a newly developed thermometer made of zircon, researchers have found evidence that environmental conditions on early Earth, within 200 million years of the solar system's formation, were characterized by liquid-water oceans and continental crust similar to those of the present day.

The findings are reported in the May 6 issue of the journal Science.

"Our data support recent theories that Earth began a pattern of crust formation, erosion, and sediment recycling as early in its evolution as 4.35 billion years ago, which contrasts with the hot, violent environment envisioned for our young planet by most researchers and opens up the possibility that life got a very early foothold," said Bruce Watson, a geochemist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.

Watson collaborated with scientist Mark Harrison, affiliated with the Australian National University and UCLA, on the research. The work was also supported by the Australian Research Council and NASA's Astrobiology Institute.

Watson and Harrison developed a new thermometer that measures the titanium content of zircon crystals to determine their crystallization temperature. Zircons are tiny crystals embedded in rock and are the oldest known materials on Earth. Zircons pre-date by 400 million years the oldest known rocks on Earth. These ancient crystals provide researchers with a window into the earliest history of the Earth, and have been used to date the assembly and movement of continents and oceans.

"Zircons allow us to go farther back in geologic time because they survive processes that rocks do not," said Watson. "Although they are only a fraction of a millimeter in size, zircons hold a wealth of information about the very earliest history of Earth."

"This study solidifies the importance of zircons as time capsules of processes happening at the earliest time in Earth history," said Sonia Esperanca, program director in NSF's division of earth sciences, which funded the research.

According to Watson, the research provides important information and a new technique for making additional discoveries about the first eon of Earth's history, the Hadean eon, a time period about which little is known.

Using the new thermometer, the scientists analyzed zircons ranging in age from 4 billion to 4.35 billion years from the Jack Hills area of Western Australia. The temperature data supports the existence of wet, minimum-melting conditions within 200 million years of solar system formation, according to the researchers.

The researchers say the thermometer provides clear distinction among zircons crystallized in the mantle, in granites, and during metamorphism, thereby giving consistent information about the conditions on Earth during those crystals' formation.

Watson describes his research as "materials science of the Earth," because it involves designing and executing laboratory experiments at the high temperatures and pressures found in the Earth's deep crust and upper mantle.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "New Thermometer Confirms Wet Conditions On Earliest Earth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527110041.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, June 1). New Thermometer Confirms Wet Conditions On Earliest Earth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527110041.htm
National Science Foundation. "New Thermometer Confirms Wet Conditions On Earliest Earth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527110041.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) At least six Nepalese guides are dead after an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest along a route used to climb the world's highest peak. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins