Scientists Discover a 4-Billion-Year-Old Ancient Piece of Earth’s Crust Underneath Western Australia


The Earth is made up of three main layers: the crust, the mantle, and the core.

Lasers pave the way for finding ancient crust.

Researchers at Curtin University have found evidence of a roughly four-billion-year-old piece of the Earth’s crust that lies beneath southwestern Western Australia by using lasers smaller than a human hair to target microscopic grains of a mineral extracted from beach sand. .

The Timescales of Mineral Systems Group at Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, led by Ph.D. student Maximilian Droellner, said the lasers were used to vaporize parts of individual grains of the mineral zircon, revealing where the grains had originally eroded, as well as the geological history of the region. This new discovery helps explain how the planet evolved from uninhabitable to living supportive.

“Evidence suggests that an up to four billion-year-old piece of crust the size of Ireland has influenced the geological evolution of WA over the past billions of years and is a key ingredient of rocks formed in WA during that time,” says Mr Droellner.

“This piece of crust has survived multiple mountain-building events between Australia, India and Antarctica and appears to still exist tens of kilometers below the southwest corner of WA. When comparing our findings with existing data, it appears that many regions experienced a similar timing of early crust formation and preservation around the world, suggesting a significant change in Earth’s evolution some four billion years ago, when meteorite bombardment waned, the crust stabilized and life on Earth began to settle.”

Research Supervisor Dr. Milo Barham, also of the Timescales of Mineral Systems Group within Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said no large-scale study of this region had yet been done and the results, when compared with existing data, provide exciting new insights.

“The edge of the ancient crust appears to define an important crustal boundary that determines where economically important minerals are found,” said Dr. barham.

“Recognizing these ancient crustal remnants is important for the future of optimized sustainable resource exploration. Studying the early Earth is challenging given the enormous amount of time that has passed, but it is vital for understanding the significance of life on Earth and our quest to find it on other planets.”

Reference: “A persistent Hadean-Eoarchean protocrust in the western Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia” by Maximilian Dröllner, Christopher L. Kirkland, Milo Barham, Noreen J. Evans and Bradley J. McDonald, June 17, 2022, New Earth.
DOI: 10.1111/ter.12610

mr. Droellner, Dr. Barham and co-promoter of research, Professor Chris Kirkland, are affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR). Curtin’s flagship Earth Sciences research institute and the research were funded by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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