News & AnalysisAtmospheric Evolution

New Look at Ancient Mineral Could Scrap a Test for Early Oxygen

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Science  28 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6174, pp. 960
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6174.960

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Sniffing out how much, if any, oxygen Earth's atmosphere contained eons ago depends on understanding how, when, and where minerals that "gauge" the amount of oxygen available at the time actually formed. A new study of 2.5-billion-year-old Australian rocks suggests that the oxygen-rich mineral hematite in them formed hundreds of millions of years later than had been thought. The study will likely send researchers back to the lab to sharpen their own ancient atmosphere analyses.