Sep
28
2007

Old, stuffy air: Oxygen’s origins may be older than first believed

Old air: We're used to seeing oxygen in tanks like this, but some 2.5 billion years ago it was locked up in the Earth's rocks. New studies show that the element is 50 to 100 million years older than previously thought. (Flickr photo by jzawodn)
Old air: We're used to seeing oxygen in tanks like this, but some 2.5 billion years ago it was locked up in the Earth's rocks. New studies show that the element is 50 to 100 million years older than previously thought. (Flickr photo by jzawodn)
Did you know that we can trace the origins of an important element in our air in today’s rocks?

The current issue of the journal Science is reporting that a rock formation recently found in Australia is turning back the origination date of oxygen on Earth.

The new data shows that oxygen was on the planet about 50 to 100 million years before previously thought. It’s not a huge time difference when you consider the previous early indications of oxygen date back 2.3 billion to 2.4 billion years ago.

That’s the time range that researchers like to call the "Great Oxidation Event," and believe me, you wouldn’t have wanted to be around then. Earth’s air was composed primarily of methane and ammonia at that time. The origins of the "Great Oxidation Event" aren’t understood yet, but that was the start of the process that has led to 21percent of our atmosphere being made up of oxygen. And of course, without oxygen living beings like us wouldn’t be able to breath.

The rock core found in Australia is a 3,000-foot-long chunk found in western Australia. The new discovery fuels further speculation that there are strong links between changes in the Earth’s geology and its biology, researchers say. That’s the big question that researchers have to delve into next.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Colly's picture
Colly says:

This helped w/ my science homework!!!! Thanks!!!

posted on Tue, 04/29/2008 - 6:55pm

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