Oldest rock pushed back to 4.28 billion years

A new study by McGill University geologist Jonathon O’Neil reports the discovery of basalt rocks from northern Quebec that date to a record 4.28 billion years ago – a time when the planet was still a primordial hellscape of gnarled volcanic slag, steaming oceans, and a heavy sky filled with screaming incandescent bombs from space.

Dating from a period just after the accretion of the planet and the formation of the Moon, these are the oldest intact Earth rocks ever found. Older mineral particles have been found, dating to 4.36 billion years, but those were individual grains of rare and long-lasting minerals like zircon, and were found inside much younger whole rocks.

Unlike meteorites and the Moon, very few rocks on Earth’s surface date from the accretionary dawn of the planet. Our world has wind and water and plate tectonics, all of which constantly recycle surface materials. Finding rocks from such a primal phase of Earth’s formation tells us not only what the planet was like back then, they give us crucial information about how rocky planets like ours form, and how quickly, elsewhere in the universe.


~ by Planetologist on September 26, 2008.

2 Responses to “Oldest rock pushed back to 4.28 billion years”

  1. I can try to help out, though I can’t promise I’ll have a lot of time to read massive tomes or anything. ๐Ÿ™‚ But if it’s something that falls inside my knowledge sphere I can try to give you some useful answers. Probably the best way to get hold of me is through my blog email: info@planetologist.net, which goes only to me.

    There’s also my university email address, but that tends to fill up with faculty and student administrivia, and I’d prefer to keep that separate from my blog-related activities, if for no other reason than that I’m easily confused.

  2. Mr. Planetologist, would you be willing to send me an email address?

    I’m a professional fiction writer, currently working on a project where having someone with your background to bounce things off of would be fabulously useful.

    I can give you details, but not on an open forum. If you are worried it’s a scam, it ain’t, and I won’t be needing a credit card number. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m writing the series with another writer, and while I’m a relative newcomer with only a few sales, he’s a multiple hugo and nebula award nominee, so we’re legit.

    Anyway, if you would be open to discussing the feasibility of some various truly strange forms of life, please let me know.

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