The Xenon Record of Extinct Radioactivities in the Earth

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Science  24 Dec 1971:
Vol. 174, Issue 4016, pp. 1334-1336
DOI: 10.1126/science.174.4016.1334


Analyses of xenon from well gas rich in carbon dioxide reveal a large excess of radiogenic xenon-129 from the decay of extinct iodine-129. Smaller excesses observed in the heavy xenon isotopes are from fission. These results place narrow limits on any age difference between the earth and the oldest meteorites. The occurrence of excess radiogenic xenon-129 in well gas also suggests that any quantitative degassing of existing solid materials to form the atmosphere must have been limited to a very early period of the earth's history, approximately the first 108 years. Alternatively, this observation is consistent with a model of the earth's continuous, but still incomplete, degassing since its time of formation.