If scientists are able to determine how long after the Earth was formed, what its chemical composition is, or how much water was on the surface of the young planet at that time, we will know the initial conditions, which are very important for determining when the first life could have arisen on Earth. This information, in turn, may be useful to scientists looking for rocky, Earth-like planets, as well as those looking for planets where life already exists or where there is a chance for life to develop in the near or distant future.
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But how to recreate the conditions on young Earth, since the oldest known meteorite crater on the surface of our planet, some traces of which we can see, is only 2.229 billion years old. The Earth is estimated to be about 4.6 billion years old.
Exploration of young Earth is geological work
After all, gigantic geological structures are one thing, and rocks and crystals, on which time does not leave a big mark, are quite another. For example, let’s look at a photo of a blurred zircon crystal.
At first glance, the blue stone is not much different from many stones that sometimes adorn jewelry or fill the storerooms of natural history museums. This particular object pictured was discovered in 2001 in the Jack Hills mountain range in Australia. However, the image does not reflect its actual size. This blue stone has really microscopic dimensions: only 200 by 400 microns. You can see it with your eyes, but it certainly won’t attract anyone’s attention.
However, it only became interesting when geologists decided To check the age of this fuzzy crystal. First, the researchers screened it for lead isotope content from uranium decay. However, the results were so surprising that it was decided to test the sample using the modern APT method. However, both methods showed the same result: zircons formed at least 4.4 billion years ago.
If the zircons could have formed very early, this would mean that the Earth’s crust must have formed within the first 150 million years after the formation of the Sun. This means that the Earth’s cooling process was surprisingly fast. However, the question remains what this means for life on our planet’s surface.
This cannot be determined yet. On the other hand, geologists suggest that conditions favorable for the emergence of life may have existed on Earth 4.3 billion years ago. On the other hand, the oldest bacterial fossils discovered so far are 3.4 billion years old. The question remains, then, of when and how did the first life appear in this 4.3 to 3.4 billion year window. We’ll get to that someday, but not now.
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