Sunday, June 15, 2008


Looking Back with Zircon

Illustration : Andree Valley

I guess we can say that zircon is a jewel after all, for Earth scientists at least...

Zircons, the oldest known materials on Earth, offer a window in time back as far as 4.4 billion years ago, when the planet was a mere 150 million years old. Because these crystals are exceptionally resistant to chemical changes, they have become the gold standard for determining the age of ancient rocks. When taking a really close look at the zircons it looks like rocky continents and liquid water existed at least 4.3 billion years ago and were subjected to heavy weathering by an acrid climate.

Photo: Mary Diman and John Valley

Zircon, a "diamond" in climate research!

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