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Science. 2005 May 6;308(5723):841-4.

Zircon thermometer reveals minimum melting conditions on earliest Earth.

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  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.


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 approximately 700 degrees 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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