Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Geologists Point To Outer Space As Source Of The Earth's Mineral Riches

Date:
October 19, 2009
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
According to a new study by geologists, the wealth of some minerals that lie in the rock beneath the Earth's surface may be extraterrestrial in origin.

New research suggests that the wealth of some minerals that lie in the rock beneath the Earth's surface may be extraterrestrial in origin.
Credit: iStockphoto

According to a new study by geologists at the University of Toronto and the University of Maryland, the wealth of some minerals that lie in the rock beneath the Earth's surface may be extraterrestrial in origin.

"The extreme temperature at which the Earth's core formed more than four billion years ago would have completely stripped any precious metals from the rocky crust and deposited them in the core," says James Brenan of the Department of Geology at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study published in Nature Geoscience on October 18.

"So, the next question is why are there detectable, even mineable, concentrations of precious metals such as platinum and rhodium in the rock portion of the Earth today? Our results indicate that they could not have ended up there by any known internal process, and instead must have been added back, likely by a 'rain' of extraterrestrial debris, such as comets and meteorites."

Geologists have long speculated that four and a half billion years ago, the Earth was a cold mass of rock mixed with iron metal which was melted by the heat generated from the impact of massive planet-sized objects, allowing the iron to separate from the rock and form the Earth's core. Brenan and colleague William McDonough of the University of Maryland recreated the extreme pressure and temperature of this process, subjecting a similar mixture to temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius, and measured the composition of the resulting rock and iron.

Because the rock became void of the metal in the process, the scientists speculate that the same would have occurred when the Earth was formed, and that some sort of external source – such as a rain of extraterrestrial material – contributed to the presence of some precious metals in Earth's outer rocky portion today.

"The notion of extraterrestrial rain my also explain another mystery, which is how the rock portion of the Earth came to have hydrogen, carbon and phosphorus – the essential components for life, which were likely lost during Earth's violent beginning."

The research was funded with the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a NASA Cosmochemistry grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Geologists Point To Outer Space As Source Of The Earth's Mineral Riches." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091018141608.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2009, October 19). Geologists Point To Outer Space As Source Of The Earth's Mineral Riches. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091018141608.htm
University of Toronto. "Geologists Point To Outer Space As Source Of The Earth's Mineral Riches." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091018141608.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA (July 25, 2014) NASA EDGE webcasts live from Vandenberg AFB for the launch of the Oribiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO) launch. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
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