Research CommentariesGeochemistry

Xenon's Inside Story

Science  08 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5365, pp. 851-852
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5365.851b

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Isotopes of the noble gas xenon are generated in the earth by the decay of other radioactive elements. How the different isotopes are distributed is an important clue to the puzzle of how the early Earth formed. In his research commentary, Kaneoka discusses results published in the same issue by Kunz et al. in which precision mass spectrometry was used to analyze samples of mid-ocean ridge basalt to extract various isotope ratios. The findings provide answers to controversial questions about how the radioactive elements occur in Earth's interior, and lend support to particular models of Earth formation.