Earth Was Flat And Almost Entirely Underwater 4.4 Billion Years Ago

Posted: May 9 2017, 8:54am CDT | by , Updated: May 9 2017, 8:58am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Earth was Flat and Almost Entirely Underwater 4.4 Billion Years Ago
Zircon crystals as old as 4.4 billion years were found in sandstone at Jack Hills of Western Australia. Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU

New research suggests that it took the Earth a long time to evolve into the planet that we know today

Today our Earth contains vast grasslands, deserts and mountainous regions. But it was not always the case though. A new study suggests that Earth 4.4 billion years ago was flat, barren and almost entirely covered in water. Only a few islands were prevalent in the planet.

The conclusion was reached based on the analysis of tiny zircon mineral grains collected from the Jack Hills rocks of Western Australia. These are the oldest known rocks on Earth.

There is much about ancient Earth that researchers are unable to understand. This is because they no longer have any relevant materials to be studied and fill those gaps. However, we can go back in time with the help of the material that we have from the very early Earth: zircon.

Tiny zircon can serve as a time capsule because it can contain a record of some of the earliest history of the Earth.

“The history of Earth is like a book with its first chapter ripped out with no surviving rocks from the very early period, but we have used these trace elements of zircon to build a profile of the world at that time. Our research indicates there were no mountains and continental collisions during Earth's first 700 million years or more of existence - it was a much more quiet and dull place,” said Dr Antony Burnham from Australian National University.

“Our findings also showed that there are strong similarities with zircon from the types of rocks that predominated for the following 1.5 billion years, suggesting it took the Earth a long time to evolve into a planet that we know today.”

The crystals of zircon are approximately as wide as a human hair and date back to more than four billion years old. Earth itself is around more than 4.5 billion years old while the first form of any life emerged later, some 3.8 billion years ago.

Zircon particles have been collected over the several decades and have been analyzed many times before. This ancient mineral has been found helpful in explaining the conditions of the early Earth.

“We used the granites of southeast Australia to decipher the link between zircon composition and magma type and built a picture of what those missing rocks were.” Dr Burnham said.

The analysis of their formation suggests that these zircons were created by melting older igneous rocks instead of sediments.

Dr. Burnham explains.“Sediment melting is characteristic of major continental collisions, such as the Himalayas, so it appears that such events did not occur during these early stages of Earth's history.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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