Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

2005 science breakthrough: Revising Earth’s early history

23.12.2005


During Earth formation, decay of short-lived radioactive isotopes and surface bombardment from large bodies heated Earth’s mantle and created a deep magma ocean


Earth’s future was determined at birth. Using refined techniques to study rocks, researchers at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) found that Earth’s mantle--the layer between the core and the crust--separated into chemically distinct layers faster and earlier than previously believed. The layering happened within 30 million years of the solar system’s formation, instead of occurring gradually over more than 4 billion years, as the standard model suggests. The new work was recognized by Science magazine, in its December 23 issue, as one of the science breakthroughs for 2005.

Carnegie scientists Maud Boyet and Richard Carlson analyzed isotopes--atoms of an element with the same number of protons, but a different number of neutrons--of elements in rock samples for their work. As Carlson explains, "Isotopes exist naturally in different proportions and are used to determine conditions under which rock forms. Radioactive isotopes are particularly handy because they decay at a predictable rate and can reveal a sample’s age and when its chemical composition was established."

In the standard model of the geochemical evolution of the Earth, the Earth’s mantle has been evolving gradually over Earth’s 4.567-billion-year history primarily through the formation of the chemically distinct continental crust. Shortly after solid material began condensing from the hot gas of the cooling early solar system, the object that would become Earth grew by the collision and accretion of smaller rocky bodies. The chemical composition of these building blocks is preserved today in primitive meteorites called chondrites.



In the 1980s, scientists analyzed the ratio of isotopes of the rare earth element neodymium in chondrites and various terrestrial rocks collected at or near the Earth’s surface and found that the samples shared a common composition. Researchers believed that this ratio remained constant from the beginning of Earth formation. Using new-generation equipment, Boyet and Carlson found, surprisingly, that the terrestrial samples did not have the same ratio as the meteorites. Compared to chondrites, all terrestrial rocks measured have an excess of the mass 142 isotope of neodymium (142Nd), which is the decay product of a now-extinct radioactive isotope of samarium of mass 146 (146Sm) that was present at the birth of the solar system but decayed away shortly thereafter. The excess in 142Nd allowed the researchers to determine when the composition of the Earth diverged from that of the meteorites--within the first 30 million years after solar system formation, which is less than 1% of the age of our planet.

To explain the excess of 142Nd found in the terrestrial samples, the Carnegie scientists believe that the Earth was largely molten during its formation and that rapid crystallization of Earth’s early magma ocean caused the mantle to separate into chemically distinct layers, one containing a high ratio of Sm to Nd similar to that observed today in the mantle source of the volcanism along ocean ridges. The complementary reservoir, with low 142Nd abundance, has never been sampled at the surface and hence could now be deeply buried in the so-called D" layer at the very base of the mantle, above the core. This "missing" layer should be rich in the elements uranium, thorium, and potassium, whose long-lived radioactive decay heats Earth’s interior and causes our planet to remain geologically active. This hot layer above the core could help to keep the outer core molten so that circulation of liquid iron can produce Earth’s magnetic field, and it could instigate the hot plumes of upwelling mantle material that give rise to volcanically active islands, such as Hawaii.

Measurements by Boyet and Carlson also show that lunar rocks have the same abundance of 142Nd as the terrestrial samples, a finding that adds to the evidence that the Moon formed from the Earth. Since Mars also experienced early melting, as indicated by the chemical and isotopic composition of Martian meteorites, the new results now link the early evolution of Earth, Moon, and Mars and highlights the importance of early events in determining the chemical characteristics of the terrestrial planets.

"The work of Boyet and Carlson, when added to what has already been determined for the Moon and Mars, shows that the earliest days of the inner planets were violent times in solar system history," adds DTM director Sean Solomon. "Theoretical work by Carnegie scientist George Wetherill had pointed to this result, but now we have a clear chemical signature of this episode of Earth history."

Dr. Richard Carlson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dtm.ciw.edu
http://www.CarnegieInstitution.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle
22.06.2018 | Technical University of Denmark

nachricht Polar ice may be softer than we thought
22.06.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>