Volcanoes Spit Out 4.5-Billion-Year-Old Pieces of Earth
Material could shed light on the formation of our planet
The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific and Baffin Island, Canada, might seem as far away as two places could get. However, they now share an earthshaking connection.
Richard Walker, a geologist at the University of Maryland, and his colleagues announced that they've found "birthmarks" of Earth at both locations: 4.5 billion-year-old rocks preserved just below the surface.
A study published May 13 in the journal Science revealed the discovery of the oldest rocks found yet in Earth's mantle. According to a press release, the rocks were formed just 50 million years after our planet formed.
Scientists believe the Earth took shape by gas and dust pulling together, then growing through collisions with other nearby celestial bodies and coalescing into the habitable planet we know and love today.
That formation led to multiple layers on Earth, including the mantle: a warm layer under the relatively cool and solid crust we walk around on.
Previously, scientists thought that the warmth and constant motion of the mantle would thoroughly mix and obfuscate any materials that might have been left over from Earth's earliest days.
Walker and his team's discovery challenges that assumption.
These mantle pieces they looked at are, incredibly, left over from that violent era, and should give researchers more information about the formation of our planet than ever before.
"What we've found are surviving parts of Earth's primitive mantle that have been preserved for four and a half billion years, and I think that's kind of exciting," Walker said in the release.
The study was published online in the journal Science.