Zircon Thermometer Reveals Minimum Melting Conditions on Earliest Earth

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Science  06 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5723, pp. 841-844
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110873

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Ancient zircons from Western Australia's Jack Hills preserve a record of conditions that prevailed on Earth not long after its formation. Widely considered to have been a uniquely violent period geodynamically, the Hadean Eon [4.5 to 4.0 billion years ago (Ga)] has recently been interpreted by some as far more benign—possibly even characterized by oceans like those of the present day. Knowledge of the crystallization temperatures of the Hadean zircons is key to this debate. A thermometer based on titanium content revealed that these zircons cluster strongly at ∼700°C, which is indistinguishable from temperatures of granitoid zircon growth today and strongly suggests a regulated mechanism producing zircon-bearing rocks during the Hadean. The temperatures substantiate the existence of wet, minimum-melting conditions within 200 million years of solar system formation. They further suggest that Earth had settled into a pattern of crust formation, erosion, and sediment recycling as early as 4.35 Ga.

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