Oldest Space Dust Shows Ancient Earth’s Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere

Posted: May 12 2016, 8:09am CDT | by , Updated: May 12 2016, 8:42am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Oldest Fossil Space Dust Shows Ancient Earth’s Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere
This is one of 60 micrometeorites extracted from 2.7 billion year old limestone, from the Pilbara region in Western Australia. These micrometeorites consist of iron oxide minerals that formed when dust particles of meteoritic iron metal were oxidised as they entered Earth's atmosphere, indicating that the ancient upper atmosphere was surprisingly oxygen-rich. Credit: Andrew Tomkins
  • Space Dust on Earliest Micrometeorites shows our Planet’s Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere

The presence of space dust on the earliest micrometeorites shows our home planet’s oxygen-rich atmosphere way back then.

Via the observation of ancient micrometeorites (also known as space dust), scientists have calculated the chemical makeup of the Earth’s climate 2.7 billion years ago. The discovery was published in the journal Nature recently.

This research opposes the view that the ancient times on our planet were deficient in oxygen. On the contrary, the atmosphere was teeming with oxygen. Especially, the upper echelons of the climate were as oxygen-rich as they are today.

A layer of methane separated this oxygen-rich miasma from the bottom surface where oxygen was non-existent. The team of experts managed to get their hands on micrometeorites collected from old limestone samples in Western Australia. Via the use of highly powerful microscopes, it was found that the micrometeorites were once a fundamental part of metallic iron.

This is a common phenomenon in meteorites. These metallic iron particles had been converted into iron oxide minerals in the upper regions of the atmosphere. Thus this showed the nature of the oxygen-rich upper echelons of the climate.

This is a profound revelation for science and scientists. Never before has the thought been brought into consideration that the ancient earth’s upper atmosphere chemistry would be like an open book for us modern city dwellers.

The researchers were adept at analyzing cosmic dust. The results they came up with pointed to the oxygen levels way back then as being equal to the oxygen levels we find today in the age of the ozone hole and global warming. It was quite a shocker to the experts.

The fact which is hard to reconcile with this finding is that there were not that many photosynthetic organisms way back then that would have been able to generate so much oxygen.

The reality of the situation is that the earth probably had a layered atmosphere way back then. These various layers did not interact with each other.

Specifically, the methane layer prevented any miscegenation between different chemical media in the climate 2.7 billion years ago.

It is a very interesting and exciting field of research since by examining cosmic dust, scientists are able to peer way back into the past and find out everything about the earth’s climate in those ancient times. Further research will be carried out and it will yield even greater knowledge and know-how about our planet earth.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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